Searching for Female Agency among Documents: Postwar Japanese Female Intellectuals and Their Network

by Hiromi Ochi

May 11, 2021

Since the late 1980s and 1990s, the research field of the cultural Cold War has flourished and produced numerous works in the United States and in other countries. This development has inspired studies on Japanese culture during and after the occupation in the context of Cold War cultural policies, which, programmed and conducted by various US agencies both public and private, provided the arena of hegemonic negotiation. Representative works include: Fumiko Fujita, Amerika Bunka Gaiko to Nihon: Reisenki no Bunka to Hito no Koryu [U.S. Cultural Diplomacy and Japan in the Cold War Era] (2015), Takeshi Matsuda, Soft Power and Its Perils: U.S. Cultural Policy in Early Postwar Japan and Permanent Dependency (2007), Yuka Moriguchi Tsuchiya, Military Occupation as Pedagogy: the U.S. Re-education and Reorientation Policy for Occupied Japan, 1945-1952 (2005). This scholarship has treated cultural policies as something functional and instrumental in the reconstruction of post-war Japanese subjectivity. In the field of American literary studies as well, this vantage point has been shared since the 2000s.  What has not been fully explored, however, is the fact that there were women deeply involved in this process, working as a kind of agent: as translators, librarians, and others who had mediating functions. The aim of this research project is to explore and to trace this network of "book women," which was generated and reinforced in the process of the Rockefeller Foundation's philanthropic projects for US-Japan cultural relationship.  What has not been fully explored, however, is the fact that there were women deeply involved in this process, working as a kind of agent: as translators, librarians, and others who had mediating functions. The aim of this research project is to explore and to trace this network of "book women," which was generated and reinforced in the process of the Rockefeller Foundation's philanthropic projects for US-Japan cultural relationship.

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