When God Was a Keychain: Commercial Goods and Ainu Indigeneity in Hokkaido, Japan
CitationEddy, Zoe A. 2019. When God Was a Keychain: Commercial Goods and Ainu Indigeneity in Hokkaido, Japan. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation uses the case study of the Hokkaido Ainu and bear imagery to investigate the recursive relationship between non-Indigenous consumption of Indigeneity and Japanese national branding. I argue that, since the initial colonization of the northern Island now known as Hokkaido, non-Ainu populations have consumed Ainu Indigeneity through appropriation and commercial dispersal of Ainu material objects. Objects consumed run the gamut: academics have taken skeletons from Ainu graves to produce scholastic knowledge; Ainu gender identities have been consumed and used for non-Ainu amusement; Ainu music and performance has served as entertainment for non-Ainu. Within these examples, however, there is perhaps no example more powerful or tangible than the appropriation and commercialization of the “Ainu bear.”
Throughout interactions between Ainu and non-Ainu, the Ainu bear has served as a focal point of cultural consumption: consumption of the symbolism and material objects connected to the bear, by Japanese, European, and North American individuals, has resulted in a complex colonization of Ainu culture. The Ainu bear image, along with Ainu identity, has been appropriated by the larger Japanese nation state. In part, this image has served to help Hokkaido establish a specific regional identity. This regional identity presents Hokkaido as a far-flung wilderness that the Japanese nation state has successfully occupied and tamed. There exists, in this regional identity of Hokkaido, a duality: Hokkaido serves as both an exotic wilderness and a claimed territory. The Ainu bear, and the history connected to its appropriation, have been central to the cultivation of this image. The Japanese appropriation of bear imagery have allowed for the formation of a uniquely Hokkaido regional identity, that, importantly, ties into the larger national narrative of Japan itself.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029823
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