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Half Century Miyamori: Performing Peace in Postwar Okinawa

February 17, 2014 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of Valerie Barske wearing a grey shirt and red scarf, earrings, and glasses

Monday Seminar:

Valerie Barske

UW System Fellow (2013-2014)

History, UW-Stevens Point


On June 30, 1959, a U.S. military jet crashed into Miyamori Elementary School killing 12 students, 6 citizens, and injuring 200 others in Okinawa, Japan. American sources including Time characterized the pilot’s actions as heroic, calling this event one of few “accidents” to affect Okinawans since the WWII Battle of Okinawa (April 1-June 23, 1945). Okinawan survivors, in contrast, later articulated how their physical trauma was intensified by shame for not protecting their children from the Cold War realities of a long-term U.S. military occupation (1945-1972). In 2009, local citizens including the performance activist group “Half Century Miyamori” launched an initiative to unearth oral history testimonies proclaiming “Even though we want to forget, we do not wish to forget, we must not forget.”

This seminar focuses on my book project, which employs the historical site of the 1959 crash as a vehicle for analyzing trauma, peace, and performance in postwar Okinawa. Highlighting visual archival sources and ethnographic data, I provide an overview of individual chapters that situate Okinawa within a cultural historical landscape spanning from imperial Japan through contemporary neoliberal globalization. I summarize the theoretical framework of “dynamic embodiment” and conclude with an excerpt from my chapter that traces gendered and embodied discourses of “peace” in the 2009 Half Century Miyamori theatrical performance, Droplets of the Garcinia Tree.


Valerie H. Barske is an IRH UW System Fellow and an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, where she teaches courses on East Asia, Women in Japan, Modern China, and Comparative U.S. Occupations. Her most recent publication focuses on the visual representations of colonial Okinawan women featured in Japanese pictorial magazines, newspaper articles, and didactic texts from 1913-1943. The current book project is based on archival and ethnographic research in Okinawa and mainland Japan generously funded by two Fulbright grants, the Blakemore Foundation, and UWSP’s COLS New Faculty Research Funds.


February 17, 2014
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States