Military transnational marriage in Okinawa: Intimacy across boundaries of nation, race, and class
AdvisorBasso, Ellen B.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation is an ethnographic study of the lives of Okinawan women and American military men involved in long-term intimate relationships. The United States military has maintained a large-scale presence in Okinawa, Japan's southernmost prefecture, since the Second World War, and more than 50,000 military personnel, civilian employees, and family members are stationed there today. Within Japan, Okinawa Prefecture consistently has the highest rate of international marriage, but unlike in the country's northern urban centers, transnational sex and romance continue to be associated with the largely unwanted U.S. military presence. For their part, the individuals I interviewed eschewed such political symbolism, emphasizing instead the everyday successes and failures of living together and raising children, surviving in the military community, and building friendships and family relationships in off-base environments. Their stories speak volumes about on-the-ground relationships between Okinawans and U.S. servicemen, as well as processes of identity formation that blur the boundaries between on-base and off-base communities. On a conceptual level, the dissertation explores the military's impact on local processes of cultural production and reproduction. Specifically, it focuses on the transformation of popular ideas concerning intimacy and family, investigating (1) changing understandings of sexual morality, especially with reference to interracial relationships and broader conceptions of class difference; (2) the flexibility of ideas concerning family responsibilities and obligations, with particular attention to the ways in which American husbands and fathers are incorporated into actual families and communities; and (3) the influence of military institutional concerns on local families as Okinawan military wives are integrated into the global U.S. military community. I argue that military-related social transformations can be discerned within the most intimate situations involving self, sexuality, and family. Furthermore, changing understandings of intimacy and family have become integral to formulations of Okinawan identity and difference, particularly through the appropriation of military transnational couples and their children as symbols of Okinawa's continuing subjugation to both the U.S. military and the Japanese nation-state. The dissertation concludes with questions concerning the impact of the U.S. military, conceptualized as a transnational institutional complex, on similar aspects of cultural production in host communities worldwide.
Degree ProgramGraduate College