A Great New Dissertation – but with problems – by Kristin Roebuck

This commentary and introduction of mine, is about the following:

Japan Reborn: Mixed-Race Children, Eugenic Nationalism, and the Politics of Sex after World War II

Author: Kristin Roebuck

Thesis Advisor(s): Pflugfelder, Gregory

Date: 2015

Degree:Ph.D., Columbia University

This can be found online through a Google search: https://academiccommons.columbia.edu/catalog/ac:207934

I love this dissertation by Kristin Roebuck.

It presents critical thinking that opens up histories forsaken and refused by both the United States and Japan–their governments and populations.

Histories relegated to………. CLICK:

become invisible, then, through intense pressures, can then be controlled by the mainstream, the dominant.  Such is the case in the histories of mixed-race people’s almost everywhere, including in Japan and the United States, where the postwar re-construction of Japan under the domination of the United States have linked the complexities of mixed-race American-Japanese of the postwar to their own political-social policies and cultures.

As most of you who follow me, both here on the blog and on Facebook, would know, I do not believe in total “anything.” There is no totally perfect, or totally good, or complete anything. Especially when it comes to people, nations, cultures and histories. This is not only about so-called “facts” that are present as either true or false, accurate or not, but about repetitions, about circulating subtle positions, about strategies by stakeholders who have different commitments in life, and who put out words and information.  I have been clear from the beginning that I produce my arts and words and self, as resistance to dominant norms that are more complex and problematic when presented, and also to look at possibilities for the lessening of human-made suffering, and to work toward building alliances across differences and to work with advocacy for the oppressed (not just people, but ideas, cultures, etc.) in the world who are otherwise controlled. In this dissertation, I continue, by marking some problems with some basic statements made.

For this particular posting, I will begin with this description of the dissertation:

In April 1952, Japan emerged from Allied occupation free, peaceful, and democratic. Japan’s presses marked the occasion by declaring a state of crisis: the “konketsuji [mixed-blood children] crisis.” By all accounts, Allied soldiers had sired and abandoned two hundred thousand “mixed-blood” orphans in Japan. However, Chapter One reveals this to be a fabricated crisis or “moral panic.” Surveys found only a few thousand konketsuji nationwide, very few of them orphans. Yet these discoveries did little to change the tenor of “crisis.” Opposition politicians deployed wrath and fear over “blood mixing” to discredit the dominant Liberal Party and its alliance with the United States.”

From where does the comment: “surveys found only a few thousand konketsuji [mixed-race] nationwide, very few of them orphans….” come from?  When this is written, what does it do?

Also, in Walter Hamilton’s great work on the Australian aspect of the mixed-Japanese babies issue in the postwar–which I introduced early on this site: Children of the Occupation: Japan’s Untold Story, there are also statements alluding to this.

When we read further into these works–both Kristin Roebuck’s dissertation and Walter Hamilton’s book, we find that official stories are not accurate and as an ethnographic researcher myself, understand that official documents also leave out many things because only a few things are written and preserved. If we are to understand that it was a stigma in postwar Japan, and in the United States as well, how do the so-called “official figures” in surveys, reflect this stigma/prejudice/racism? On the other end of the spectrum, Japanese surveys say there were 20,000, while some say closer to 100,000. All of these statistics reflect both feelings as well as numbers. Some will inflate to counteract the trivializing and power of suggested “improper” and “immoral” relations between Japanese women and American servicemen. The American military did *not allow* any information “against” the military, to be published or discussed during the Occupation and early postwar period, as rule of Occupation law. Those who did were punished. Then what “numbers” are researchers doing research on this period, looking at and making conclusions about?  More importantly, for those of us Amerasians who lived through these periods in Japan and the U.S. and elsewhere, what is happening to the story of our lives and the lies and political positions being sown in societies?

History is often not as we see in the pages and from mouths. We must understand the circumstances and conditions. Just in my mother’s life, about twelve of her friends had mixed-race babies. She remembered three of them taking the newborns to monasteries. She remembers a couple more taking them to orphanages. Sadly, as well, some of them drowned or buried their babies. Most of them never spoke of these babies given away or killed ever again. She remembers none of them telling authorities that they were even pregnant, much less having a mixed-race baby.  These are *not* in the “surveys” that are often quoted.

On the other end, I agree that there was no crisis like an earthquake or an overtaking of Japan by mixed-race babies that turn into future monsters. This hysteria was due to much of what Kristin Roebuck points to in her dissertation, as well as what Walter Hamilton states in his book. We must be careful, then, as people who want to be thoughtful in our activism and social change work, to take certain things in historical works, as they are, but to really attempt to understand the effects and causes of what is presented.  Our analysis, if not, would be a waste of time, and open to undermining. Again, we must look at what the author is trying to do, and to understand that “official” documents may be all we have to go on, but to understand the cultural/social conditions would improve our positions and thoughts to write more “in-touch” with the times and the oppressions.

In this, we can see that although the dissertation is critiquing aspects of social-cultural domination in order to “use” mixed-race Japanese children in the postwar, the critique could be diminished by it seemingly taking at face value, some survey of “official” documents without fleshing out the problematics of that “official….[whatever].”  However, Kristin Roebuck does do a good job at complexifying and fleshing out and gives a very useful and effective dissertation that will leave knowledge of those times for the present to grapple with.



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