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Journal Article

Japan against Japan: U.S. Propaganda and Yasuo Kuniyoshi's Identity Crisis

ShiPu Wang
American Art
Vol. 22, No. 1 (Spring 2008), pp. 28-51
DOI: 10.1086/587915
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/587915
Page Count: 24
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Japan against Japan
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Abstract

On December 8, 1941, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, a prominent émigré Japanese artist in New York, awoke to find himself an “enemy alien” after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. “A few short days has changed my status in this country, although I myself have not changed at all,” Kuniyoshi wrote. His statement reveals astute foresight into a new historical period in which he would have to grapple with his racial and national identity vis-à-vis Japan, the country of his birth, and the United States, his adopted home. This essay examines the underlying contradictions in Kuniyoshi's wartime work, in particular his "anti-Japan" war posters for the Office of War Information, the federal agency in charge of war propaganda. The government's enlistment became a double-edged sword, for it simultaneously recognized Kuniyoshi's American artist status as the basis of enlistment, and reinforced his “Japanese-ness” that rendered him the “enemy.” His war posters became critical loci where Kuniyoshi negotiated through vexing issues of allegiance, loyalty and self-preservation.

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