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Japanese Studies


The Occupation of Photography in Occupied Okinawa

Time & Location

September 16, 7pm ET


The Japan Foundation, New York presents Illuminating Japanese Studies: Lecture Series with Former JF Fellows
Since the Fellowship program began in 1972, there have been more than 1,000 American Fellowship recipients, who study a diverse range of research topics, from pre-modern history to pop culture and everything in between. This series will illuminate what exactly Japanese Studies can teach us, not only about Japan but about the world.

Join us for the sixth session titled The Occupation of Photography in Occupied Okinawa with JF Former Fellow Gerald Figal, who is working on a book-length project that seeks to understand how photography as a commercial business and personal endeavor in postwar Okinawa was reestablished after wartime devastation and shaped under conditions of US occupation. The lecture zeroes in on the topic of American participation in photography in occupied Okinawa. This participation came in many forms: as providers of photography-related jobs, technical training, and photographic materials to Okinawans; as customers of camera shops and pawn shops owned by Okinawans; and as producers of artistic and documentary photos of Okinawa. This last aspect—Americans as photographers in Okinawa—throws into relief the multiple lenses—Okinawan, Japanese, and American—through which Okinawa and its people were imaged, prompting a critical rethinking of what counts in a history of photography in Okinawa since 1945.

The discussion will be followed by a live Q&A moderated by Alan Christy, associate professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Please share your questions through your Eventbrite RSVP. You may also participate in the discussion by sharing your questions in the YouTubeLive chat during the livestream on JFNY YouTube Channel.


Gerald Figal is a professor of History and Asian Studies at Vanderbilt University. He is author of Civilization and Monsters: Spirits of Modernity in Meiji Japan, a study of how traditional folk beliefs and a wider discourse on the mysterious and supernatural were variously reconfigured in the context of Japan’s modernization, and Beachheads: War, Peace, and Tourism in Postwar Okinawa, an examination of tensions between tourism development and war memorialization in postwar Okinawa. He currently has two ongoing projects: one deals with the business and practice of photography in Okinawa from 1945 to 1975; the other is a history of tetrapods—massive four-footed concrete blocks—on Japan’s coastline and in Japanese public imagination.

Alan Christy is an associate professor of History at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of A Discipline on Foot: Inventing Japanese Native Ethnography, 1910-1945, a study of the emergence of Japanese native ethnography (minzokugaku) as a social science in the first half of the twentieth century. He is the director of the Okinawa Memories Initiative, an international public history project exploring the transnational history of modern Okinawa and those people across the globe whose lives are connected to the islands. He is working on a book on the Yaeyama Wartime Malaria incident and the 1990s campaign for reparations. He is also the Provost of Cowell College at UC Santa Cruz.

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