Session Abstract: During the Occupation (1945-1952), GHQ/SCAP established broad parameters for democracy and pacifism in Japan, shifted by Reverse Course (1947-1948) measures to support Cold-War containment and alliance-building strategies. But the 1950s were a moment when many Japanese felt, for the first time since the war ended, that they could fully and openly debate what kind of postwar future they wanted for themselves. Several debates occurred through commercial periodicals, public exhibits, and handbooks—rising forms of 1950s middlebrow culture (accessible culture in between intellectual art and lowbrow pulp). Our interdisciplinary panel examines how Japanese reporters, activists, architects, and students mobilized middlebrow media to advance alternative uses for American imperialist programs in mainland Japan and Okinawa; to react to potentials and failures of material culture to reform daily life; and to address gender inequities and generational divides. Benjamin Uchiyama analyzes how media uproar over Yamagiwa Hiroyuki’s robbery of a Nihon University van incited moral panic about the future of postwar Japan. Barbara Sato discusses why socialist feminist Tanaka Sumiko chose womenʼs magazines as a site for molding gendered identities. John Leisure examines the concurrent American exhibition of “traditional” Japanese houses and promotion of public housing in Japan to present competing visions of Japan’s domestic culture. Alisa Freedman reads educational handbooks to understand how Japanese students used American-sponsored study abroad to negotiate national identities. Satu Limaye synthesizes panel themes and adds perspective on political economy and U.S.-Japan relations. 1950s middlebrow media envision multiple “postwars,” challenging metanarratives of progress and consensus dominant after Anpo (1960).
Paper Presenter: Alisa Freedman – University of Oregon
Paper Presenter: Benjamin Uchiyama – University of Southern California
Paper Presenter: Barbara Sato – Seikei University (Japan)
Paper Presenter: John Leisure – University of California, Los Angeles