Center for Race and Gender Thursday Forum Series
Racial Looking: Photo Archives of Intimacy and Global Power

October 6, 2016

Moderated by Dr. Ariko S. Ikehara, Comparative Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley

Through Okinawan Eyes: Race and Blackness in the Photography of Ishikawa Mao
Daryl Maude, East Asian Languages & Cultures

In 1975, Okinawan photographer Ishikawa Mao took a job as a hostess in a bar catering to African American servicemen stationed in Okinawa. Newly returned from photography school in Tokyo, Ishikawa wanted to take photographs of the servicemen and their Okinawan and Japanese lovers, wives, and girlfriends. The portraits she produced were candid and intimate, showing soldiers at their leisure and women at work, as well as more domestic scenes of cooking, relaxing, and socialising.

This presentation will examine Ishikawa’s photography from this time period, understanding it as participating in a dynamic of racial looking. Drawing on Fanon’s work on the white gaze, I will ask what happens when, instead of a white man looking at a black man, it is an Asian woman looking at a black man. What sort of ontological fixity is the black man afforded in Ishikawa’s gaze? And how is this dynamic of racial looking complicated by the status of the photograph itself as a medium? Drawing on this difference in the visual moment, I will furthermore think about the meaning of Okinawan difference from mainland, Yamato Japanese, which is understood in different terms from those of the visual.

Understanding the photographs as encoding many different power dynamics of personal gendered and racialised relations, I will also think about the ways in which the reflect the global power dynamics of the Cold War. The photographs, taken in 1975, portray a moment in which America was withdrawing from Vietnam, and Okinawa had recently “reverted” to mainland Japanese control. They show the personal, candid moments at play in a larger historical, geopolitical moment, and offer us a visual archive of intimacy and interracial relations in Okinawa.

The Ghost in the (Oriental) Machine: Lafacdio Hearn’s Haunted Tales of Old Japan

Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda, East Asian Languages & Cultures

In 1890 Lafcadio Hearn, a Greek-Irish immigrant to the U.S., traveled to Japan (by this time a rising empire in the Pacific) as a newspaper correspondent with a commission to write a series of ethnographic sketches of “Japanese life” for a Western audience. Hearn would go on to live the rest of his life in Japan, even marrying into a Japanese family and adopting a Japanese pen name: Koizumi Yakumo. Hearn had a keen interest in vanishing cultures, and his critiques of modernity often fell into romantic nostalgia for an idealized past.

Using a collection of Hearn’s essays called “In Ghostly Japan,” my talk will explore the connection between late-19th century Orientalist ethnography and travelogues and the trope of ghostliness. A recurring theme that appears throughout Hearn’s writings and letters on Japan, “ghostliness” takes on racialized connotations in these essays as Hearn draws upon Francis Galton’s technique of “composite photography”—a technical innovation in which multiple exposures on a single photographic plate allowed for the layering of several different portraits on top of one another, creating an “average” or composite photograph of multiple individuals. Galton, the leading theorist of eugenics during the Victorian period, believed that this technique could be used to predict an ideal racial type by blending the characteristics of those whose features he deemed racially superior.

That Hearn often drew upon the metaphor of composite photography in his writing to describe the “ghostly layering” of past and present in his ethnographic sketches has implications for how we understand his position in late 19th century Japan. I will show how the figure of the ghost becomes a particularly apposite figure with which to think through the complex temporalities at play in the Orientalist imagination by focusing on the way in which Hearn uses the trope of ghostliness to project an “idealized” fantasy of Japan onto his present surroundings, thus blending scientific observation and fantasy in his writing in a way that paralleled Victorian eugenics.


Daryl Maude is a PhD student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures with a designated emphasis in critical theory. He works on Okinawan and Japanese literature and cultural production from the 1970s to the present day, exploring the racial, sexual, and gendered dynamics in these works against a grander geopolitical background of the Cold War, including the ongoing occupation of Okinawa despite its “reversion” to Japan.

Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda is a PhD candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures with a designated emphasis in Critical Theory. She works on transnational Japanese literature and cultural production from the late 19th century to the present, tracing the conceptual traffic between Victorian England and Meiji Japan through theories of kinship, evolution and eugenics as they traveled between these overlapping spaces of empire.