Tracing Japanese art and culture as they began arriving on American shores in the postwar period
America's Japan and Japan's Performing Arts studies the images and myths that have shaped the reception of Japan-related theater, music, and dance in the United States since the 1950s. Soon after World War II, visits by Japanese performing artists to the United States emerged as a significant category of American cultural-exchange initiatives aimed at helping establish and build friendly ties with Japan. Barbara E. Thornbury explores how "Japan" and "Japanese culture" have been constructed, reconstructed, and transformed in response to the hundreds of productions that have taken place over the past sixty years in New York, the main entry point and defining cultural nexus in the United States for the global touring market in the performing arts.
America's Japan and Japan's Performing Arts offers for the first time a comprehensive study of Japan-related theater, music, and dance within the framework of twentieth- and twenty-first-century American understandings of and attitudes toward Japan and its culture. The "America's Japan" that Thornbury analyzes in connection with the performing arts is a complex chronicle of cultural mobility and exchange—one that often reduces Japanese culture to a worn-out set of Orientalist stereotypes, but one that also broadly engages in a dynamic, transnational conversation about artistic production and encounter. Thornbury crosses disciplinary boundaries in her wide range of both primary sources and published scholarship, making the book of interest to students and scholars of performing arts studies, Japanese studies, and cultural studies.
"Clearly theorizes the ways in which Japanese performing arts have been received and understood in the U.S. since World War II, while also presenting an historical overview that allows us to see just what has been brought to these shores during that time period in terms of theatre, music, and dance."
—Samuel Leiter, Brooklyn College
"At heart, America's Japan and Japan's Performing Arts is a love letter to Japanese traditional and contemporary performing arts in New York and a detailed scholarly history of the reception and understanding of those arts and that history by Americans from the turn of the last century to the present moment. The volume is accessible, thought-provoking, detailed, and noteworthy for its scope."
—Keven J. Wetmore, Jr., Loyola Marymount University
Illustration by Hidetomo Mita, courtesy of Yoshiko Chuma and The School of Hard Knocks.