In this thesis, I focus on the themes of family memory and history in relation to the Japanese diaspora, and how performance becomes an invaluable method of expression and discovery when words are inadequate. To explore these themes, I analyze the performances of three Japanese and Japanese artists, each of whom expresses their stories through a variety of genres, ranging from experimental short film and documentary to musical theater. Although the stories that the artists tell are connected by their discussion of the intergenerational impact of Japanese American incarceration in the United States during World War II, a history that my own family did not personally experience, their work compelled me to take my own journey towards understanding the impact of collective trauma and diasporic experiences on identity. In order to illustrate my thoughts as I interacted with the artists’ works, and to document the journey I took towards coming to terms with the gaps in my own family’s memory, I weave sections of autoethnography throughout my analyses. Through this integration of autoethnographic reflection on my experiences, I recast understandings of Japanese American history and performance to show how Japanese American diasporic identity is not just about one specific moment in history that centered on the violence inherent in wartime incarceration; it is also about a shared sense of the racialized and diasporic experiences of loss and memory.
Tanabe, Hana, "“Living as Art”: Performance and the Haunting of the Japanese Diaspora" (2022). East Asian Languages and Cultures Department Honors Papers. 12.
The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.