CSUS Graduate Student Workshop
Empire Elisions in Asian and Indigenous Encounters
November 30, 2022 | 4:00PM - 5:30PM
This is an-in person event at the Munk School, Seminar Room 208N, North House,1 Devonshire Place, Toronto, Ontario.
This paper explores the intersections between the study of comparative racialization of Asian and Indigenous peoples and the study of comparative empires between Imperial Japan and the US. By reading Leslie Marmon Silko’s 1977 novel, Ceremony, I propose how interracial alliances are imagined and desired in the novel and in its criticism by compounding experiences of imperial violence and misrecognizing racial and familial belonging at the intersection of empires, US’s and Japan’s. The novel’s protagonist, Tayo, a Laguna Pueblo veteran, imagines kinship with Japanese soldiers in the Philippines during WWII, whom he fails to kill because he misrecognizes them for his Laguna family members. I argue that the novel cites the Bering Strait theory—which problematically proposed that Indigenous peoples originally migrated from Japan to the Americas through the Bering Strait—and remembers the atomic bomb as an intersection of imperial violence of resource extraction of Laguna Pueblo land to create the bomb and nuclear destruction of Japan to end the war to make sense of these misrecognitions as imagined solidarities. In these instances of making sense of solidarity, the novel elides Japanese imperial contexts and histories. This specific elision of Japan plays into Orientalist clichés of making the Orient supine in the Western imagination. In the US, this supine portrayal is specifically used for the subordination and liberation of the Orient. In this way, the novel inadvertently asserts US imperial/Orientalist intentions that mirror US-Japan geopolitical relations in the postwar to Cold War period. By building on Jodi Byrd’s “cacophony of colonialism” in its global and inter-imperial contexts, and by engaging with recent Asian-Indigenous scholarship by Iyko Day, Quynh Nhu Le, and Juliana Hu Pegues, this paper explores the following questions: Are interracial/global encounters with Japan often misread or desired as solidarities? And how do we reckon with interracial solidarity through the global framework of comparative empires?
Lilika Ioki Kukiela is a PhD candidate in the Department of English and the Center for Diaspora and Transnational Studies at the University of Toronto. Her dissertation explores the intersections between Japanese and American empires through figurations of Japan in post-1945 ethnic American literary texts that complicate or make sense of one’s relation to empire.