My research is underpinned by a fairly straightforward question: what is the relationship between storytelling and identity, or: in what way is fiction an object of the humanities—one that tells us who we were, who we are, and who we might become? Walter Benjamin suggests that “traces of the storyteller cling to the story the way the handprints of the potter cling to the clay vessel.” My research considers how we mold ourselves onto stories, and how close readings of the stories we tell reveal the mechanisms of identity formation.
I am interested in a broad definition of storytelling. My intellectual home is at the intersection of modern Japanese literature, African American literature, and comparative literature. But Japanese rappers certainly tell stories, as do works of anime. As such, my research interests span from the classics of modern Japanese and African American literature to works of Japanese popular culture.
I am particularly interested in studies of the “Black Pacific,” which consider the ebb and flow of black people, thought, and culture throughout the Pacific. My previous research—which includes an article on Nobel laureate Oe Kenzaburo’s writing of Afro-Japanese existentialism, an essay on the reception history of Little Black Sambo in Japan, an edited volume entitled Two Haiku and a Microphone: Traveling Texts and Afro-Japanese Cultural Exchange, and the forthcoming Playing in the Shadows: Fictions of Race and Blackness in Postwar Japanese Literature—has investigated the place of fiction in the construction of racial and ethnic identities.
If Playing in the Shadows considers fictions of race, my next research project will consider visions of race (in photography, commercials, anime, et cetera). A representative publication here is “The Past Tense and the Future Perfect: The Postmodern Play of Watanabe Shin’ichiro and the Coming Community,” forthcoming in the Journal of Popular Culture.
I am always interested in good conversation; potential colleagues and students are always welcome to contact me.
Publications (follow links to read the works below)
Playing in the Shadows: Fictions of Race and Blackness in Postwar Japanese Literature (under review)
“The Past Tense and the Future Perfect: The Postmodern Play of Watanabe Shin’ichiro and
the Coming Community”
The Journal of Popular Culture (accepted)
“Postracial Catastrophes: Yamada Eimi in the Ruins of Race”
The Comparatist (accepted)
“In the Beginning: Blackness and the 1960s Creative Nonfiction of Ōe Kenzaburō”
positions:asia critique, Volume 25, Issue 2 (2017)
“Between Narratophilia and Aphasia: Silent Desire and the Dialogic Narration of Self in
Ishikawa Jun’s ‘The Legend of Gold’”
East Asia Forum, Fall 2010
Two Haiku and a Microphone: Traveling Texts and the Work of Afro-Japanese Cultural Production,
co-edited with Cornyetz, Nina
Lexington Books, New Studies in Modern Japan (2015)
(Read the introduction to Two Haiku here)
Contributions to Edited Volumes:
“Required Reading: General Education, the Crisis in the Humanity, and the Value of
Reading Postwar Japanese Fiction”
Teaching Postwar Japanese Fiction, ed. Bates, Alex et. al.
MLA Options for Teaching Series (accepted)
“The Sun Never Sets on Little Black Sambo: The Cultural Hermeneutics of Little Black Sambo
—A Transoceanic Approach”
The Affect of Difference: Representations of Race Under Asian Empire, eds. Hanscomb, Chris and
Washburn, Dennis University of Hawaii Press (2016)
Ara, Masahito, “Second Youth, co-translated with Yamazaki, Junko
Politics and Literature Debate: Postwar Japanese Criticism 1945-1952 Lexington Books