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Kimono as art : exhibiting and staging Japanese culture in Canton, Ohio

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Item Summary

Title:Kimono as art : exhibiting and staging Japanese culture in Canton, Ohio
Authors:Rand, Melissa Louise
Date Issued:May 2013
Publisher:[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [May 2013]
Abstract:While there have been a substantial amount of academic studies on the representation of Asian and Asian Americans in film and literature, far less has been written about their representation in museum exhibitions. With this thesis, I hope to help bridge a gap between the fields of Asian American studies and museum studies. One of my primary interests in museum studies is in examining the relationships that museums forge and maintain with their communities and the way that those relationships are always in flux. Currently, many museums and cultural organizations are seeking new ways to reach more diverse audiences, recognizing they will not be sustainable if they only appeal to what has traditionally been the American museum's audience in the recent past--middle and upper middle class white Americans.
By examining the relationships between several different community groups in Canton, I would like this study to contribute to the existing literature on museum and communities as well as literature on the representation of cultures in a museum setting. Leilani Nishime's article "Communities on Display," one of the first readings I encountered that addresses the representation of Asian Americans (and specifically Japanese Americans) in museums, was very influential in cultivating my desire to pursue further research in this area. I was also greatly inspired by Robert Lavenda's ethnographic case study, "Festivals and Public Culture," in Minnesota, the results of which were published in the anthology, Museum and Communities: The Politics of Public Culture. This article stood out for me long before I began work on this project, namely because ofthe similarities I found between the small towns that Lavenda examines and the small towns that I grew up around in the Stark County area.
In Canton, Asians were subjected to a "white gaze" and became objects of curiosity. At times, little thought was given to the reactions of the Japanese American/Asian American communities towards the content of some of the events. When Japanese and Japanese American participants did make suggestions, they were often rejected, ignored, or questioned. KLC members were reluctant to relinquish their idea of how they wanted to see Japanese culture presented an idea of Japan that was based on Orientalist imagery and pastoral romanticism.
The Kimono as Art exhibition and its auxiliary events proposed to educate the people of Canton about Japanese culture. However, it also alienated Asian Americans from the majority of the Canton community by perpetuating Orientalist themes that rendered them as "the Other" and place them on the periphery of mainstream American culture.
The complexity of overlapping relationships in Canton between the Japanese and Japanese Americans; between the Arts in Stark and the Canton Museum of Art; between working, lower middle class, and the upper middle class audiences; and between the Japanese/Japanese Americans and the Kimono Leadership Committee--provided an interesting case study on how museums and cultural institutions navigate the terrain of diversity. Kimono as Art was successful in attracting visitors who did not normally visit museums. But I wonder, did it offer appropriate cultural experiences of Japanese culture to the community of Canton and Stark County?
Description:M.A. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2013.
Includes bibliographical references.
Appears in Collections: M.A. - American Studies

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