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Prostitution, rape and resistance to US militarism in Asia

This week's discussion of militarization in its most starkly sexualized forms takes as its point of departure a work of fiction, Highashi Mineo's heavily autobiographical novella, Child of Okinawa. First published as the formal US occupation was coming to an end in 1972, with the island of Okinawa 'reverting' to Japanese sovereignty, the story is set shortly after World War II. Observed through the eyes of a young boy, the narrative documents the island's total transformation by an overwhelming US military presence-- a presence which persists to this day. We'll read this novella alongside a work of scholarship interrogating a notorious 1995 rape case to think about how sex, and sexual violence, have engendered resistance to US militarism in Asia.

Indicative seminar questions:

  • why do you think Higashi Mineo chose to tell his story from the perspective of a young boy rather than an adult narrator? What do we learn from this novella about the sexual politics of postwar life in Okinawa? As historians, do we need to approach fiction in a different way than we would other types of source material?
  • given the long and troubled history of US military-perpetrated sexual violence in Okinawa, why did the 1995 rape case galvanize such profound resistance and what does this tell us about local gender politics?
  • what contradictions or tensions characterize Okinawan/Japanese attitudes towards prostitution and rape perpetrated by the US military?

Required readings:

Primary source: Highashi Mineo, Child of Okinawa, transl. Steve Rabson, in Okinawa: Two Postwar Novellas (University of California, Japan Research Monograph, 1996), 81-117 [start with Rabson's 'Introduction']

Linda Isako Angst, ‘The Sacrifice of a Schoolgirl: The 1995 Rape Case, Discourses of Power, and Women’s Lives in Okinawa,’ Critical Asian Studies, 33: 2 (2001): 243-66

Supplementary reading:

Sealing Cheng, On the Move for Love: Migrant Entertainers and the US Military in South Korea (2010) e-book

Emily Nyen Chang, ‘Engagement Abroad: Enlisted Men, US Military Policy and the Sex Industry’, Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics and Public Policy, 15: 2 (2001): 621-53

Maria Hohn and Seungsook Moon, Over There: Living With the US Military Empire from World War Two to the Present (2010)

Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000), ch.2

Donald Kirk, Okinawa and Jeju: Bases of Discontent (2013) e-book

Na Young Lee, 'The Construction of Military Prostitution in South Korea during US Military Rule', Feminist Studies 33, 3 (Fall 2007): 453-81

Katharine H.S. Moon, Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in US-Korea Relations (1997)

Katharine H.S. Moon, ‘Resurrecting Prostitutes and Overturning Treaties: Gender Politics in the “Anti-American” Movement in South Korea,’ Journal of Asian Studies, 66: 1 (Feb. 2007): 129-57

Peter Simpson, Daniel Broudy, and Makoto Arakaki, Under Occupation: Resistance and Struggle in a Militarised Asia-Pacific (2013) e-book

Yuki Tanaka, Japan's Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery and Prostitution during World War II and the US Occupation (Routledge, 2002) e-book

David Vine, Base Nation: How US Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World (2015)

Andrew Yeo, Activists, Alliances and Anti-US Base Protests (2011) e-book

Further reading on sex and postwar occupation after World War II

Beth Bailey and David Farber, The First Strange Place: Race and Sex in World War II Hawaii (1992)

Perry Biddiscombe, 'Dangerous Liaisons: The Anti-Fraternization Movement in the U.S. Occupation Zones of Germany and Austria, 1945-1948', Journal of Social History 34, iii (2001): 611-47

Susan L. Carruthers, The Good Occupation: American Soldiers and the Hazards of Peace (2016), ch.4

Maria Hohn, GIs and Frauleins: The German-American Encounter in 1950s West Germany (2002) e-book

Maria Hohn and Seungsook Moon, Over There: Living With the US Military Empire from World War Two to the Present (2010)

Sarah Kovner, Occupying Power: Sex Workers and Servicemen in Postwar Japan (Stanford University Press, 2012) e-book

Robert Kramm, 'Haunted by Defeat: Imperial Sexualities, Prostitution, and the Emergence of Postwar Japan,' Journal of World History 28, 3 & 4 (Dec. 2017): 587-614

Ann Pfau, Miss Yourlovin: GIs, Gender and Domesticity during World War II (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), ch. 3, 'Fraternization and the Uncensored War',

Mary Louise Roberts, 'The Price of Discretion: Prostitution, Venereal Disease, and the American Military in France, 1944-1946,' American Historical Review 115, 4(Oct. 2010): 1002-1030

Mary Louise Roberts, What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France (2013) e-book

Holly Sanders, 'Panpan: Streetwalking in Occupied Japan', Pacific Historical Review 81, iii (Aug. 2012): 404-31

John Willoughby, Remaking the Conquering Heroes: The Postwar American Occupation of Germany (2001) e-book