Japan

Organized Panel Session

3 - Crossing Genres in Okinawan Performance: Art, Folk, and Power in the Cultural Protection System

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Delaware Suite A, Lobby Level

Okinawans have historically developed and utilized musical/theatrical performance as a means of dealing with cultural and political tension and oppression. As Japanese folkloristic research had traced the influence of Japanese cultural and theatrical tradition in the dance-theatre form of the Ryukyuan court in the early twentieth century, the Ryukyuan performance, recognized as a legitimate Japanese cultural category, has been subsumed under the Japanese system of cultural property protection, upon the Okinawan reversion in 1972. Significantly, the cultural property protection law classifies traditional performance into two categories: “intangible cultural property” and “intangible folk cultural property.” Underlying this division is the hierarchy of “artistic” and folkloristic/“non-artistic” values. It was thus crucial for Okinawans that Kumiodori musical theatre was designated as “the important intangible cultural property of Japan.” While Ryukyuans and their culture had been looked down on as foreign inferiors, the identification of Kumiodori as “art” has added momentum to the elevation of Okinawan cultural status, contributing to the popularization of broader Okinawan performance genres after the reversion. However, Okinawans have predominantly come to be represented by the female body performing exotic, mystical dance and music. Focusing on the rise and prominence of Okinawan performance, in relation to scholarly and legal framework of traditional performance, this paper discusses the way in which a female performer, consciously self-defining her performance as total theatrical “art,” has crossed genres from Ryukyuan dancing to Japanese drumming, thereby mediating the structural dichotomies of art vs. non-art, Japanese vs. Ryukyuan, male vs. female within the Japanese cultural framework.

Hideyo Konagaya

Waseda University, Not Applicable, Japan

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3 - Crossing Genres in Okinawan Performance: Art, Folk, and Power in the Cultural Protection System



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