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Dancing Alien, Enemy and Ally: Yuriko Amemiya's Negotiations of Race, Gender and Citizenship

  • Author(s): Hayakawa, Mana
  • Advisor(s): O'Shea, Janet M
  • et al.
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Abstract

This dissertation examines Yuriko Amemiya’s navigation of shifting legislation regarding race, gender, and citizenship between the 1920s and 1950s. I argue that Amemiya’s training as a dancer allowed her to construct a versatile identity equipped to traverse discriminatory conditions and confront significant changes in the social location of Japanese Americans. I consider her dance training in pre-World War II Japan and analyze performances that took place in wartime and postwar America. This project reviews the social conditions of this period, including the interwar years, as second-generation Japanese Americans sought to establish a sense of belonging up-against the enforcement of anti-Asian laws, wartime incarceration, and the postwar period during which the Cold War and the enactment of new immigration policies drastically altered the demographic of Asians in the United States.

Mindful of the tensions that erupted in these decades as U.S.-Japan relations vacillated, and as Americans faced job loss, war, racial segregation, and contested definitions of immigrant and citizen, I contend that dance allowed Amemiya the opportunity to re-choreograph her image away from harmful Orientalist representations. Yet, despite her increased social mobility, she continued to confront limitations as an artist and cultural critic working within the confines of American modern dance. This examination of Amemiya’s early life as a performer reveals a complicated narrative that demonstrates the compelling ways in which a dancer negotiated restrictions and opportunities during periods of profound legislative and social change.

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This item is under embargo until May 30, 2020.