Accepted paper:

Just "all nuts and a bunch of wimps"? Masculinities in the Ryûkyûs


Erick Laurent (Gifu Keizai University)

Paper short abstract:

The study of masculinity in the Ryûkyû islands (present-day Okinawa), owing to their geographical position and their relations to neighboring cultures (China, Japan) and colonial powers (Satsuma, America), allows light to be shed on the articulation between masculinity, ethnicity and colonialism.

Paper long abstract:

Dozens of studies have been devoted to the women of Okinawa (mainly concerning their role in religious phenomena). Strangely enough, though, no serious research has yet examined the community (?) of Ryûkyûan men, from a historical, cultural or psychological standpoint. All the European travellers who visited the islands from the 16th century onward found the Ryûkyûan men "special", that is, different from their Chinese or Japanese counterparts. They invariably described these men as soft, feminine, very accommodating, or as lazy, cowardly, stupid and dominated by women. More recently, they have even been described as "all nuts and a bunch of wimps" by a US military official in a famous e-mail to Washington as exposed by a journalist. Masculinity, actively constructed through conflicts and cultural influences, therefore seems to be of particular interest in the Ryûkyû islands, owing to their geographical position and their complex historical relations to neighbouring cultures (mainly China and Japan) and/or colonial-like powers (Satsuma, America). This paper intends to illustrate, through historical and ethnographical data, the articulation between masculinity, ethnicity and colonialism in the Ryūkyūs and present- day Okinawa, a de facto multicultural community.

panel P067
Gendered work and gendered body in the globalizing world