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In Session: Race and Japanese Studies: History, Intersections, and Identity
3: A Minority Path to 3-D Humanity: A Black Perspective on a Zainichi Director’s Buraku Documentary
Friday, March 26, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
John H. Davis, Jr.
Denison University, United States
In this paper I analyze the methodology and techniques employed by Kim Sungwoon in his critically acclaimed documentary film exploring the life of Ishikawa Kazuo. Ishikawa is the central figure in the Sayama incident, a case of deep historical significance in Buraku circles as it concerns enzai (false accusations) against a member of the Buraku minority. I consider how Kim strategically leverages his own experience as a Zainichi Korean to re-frame both Ishikawa’s life and the Buraku issue. Specifically, I address how Kim’s documentary is crafted in a manner to resonate critically with multiple audiences. First, it targets the common knowledge gap of the general public and utilizes Ishikawa’s case as a means of introducing the Buraku issue. Second, Kim’s documentary captures elements of the Buraku issue sure to ring true with a Buraku audience. At the same time, Kim transcends the Buraku trope and demonstrates that significant aspects of Ishikawa’s life cannot be understood when looked at solely through the lens of the Buraku issue. Finally, I consider the broad significance of Kim’s documentary with respect to minority studies as an exculpatory method modeling how one can leverage minority sensibilities to conduct implicit comparative analyses capable of unearthing the common humanity at the heart of minority subjectivities.