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Vitalizing Traditions: Ainu Music and Dance and the Discourse of Indigeneity

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Item Summary

Title:Vitalizing Traditions: Ainu Music and Dance and the Discourse of Indigeneity
Authors:Hunter, Justin
Date Issued:Dec 2015
Publisher:[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2015]
Abstract:For over two hundred years, the Ainu of Japan have been colonized in their ancestral lands and faced deep discrimination in the purported mono-ethnic, homogenous Japanese society. Despite the Japanese government’s official recognition of the Ainu as the Indigenous people of Japan in 2008, the Ainu continue to fight for their rights and to maintain their identity. In this dissertation, I examine the various ways Ainu use expressive culture to highlight their cultural differences in order to reaffirm their identity against assimilationist policies. Taking advantage of the growing awareness of global Indigenous rights, the Ainu participate in the global discourse of Indigeneity by making connections with Indigenous peoples around the world. Through these efforts, the Ainu draw attention to their struggle and demonstrate that they are a living, breathing, and vital people, despite being forgotten and rendered invisible in the colonial history and memory of Japan.
This dissertation focuses on the “staging” of Ainu identity by Ainu people in various physical and metaphysical spaces in Japan and beyond. These grassroots efforts place the Ainu in charge of their own representation. By focusing on music and dance performances, and the overall representation of Ainu on various stages, I view these performances as dynamic, active, and productive “vitalizing traditions,” rather than the popular perception of tourist performances as only negative and inauthentic. These performances provide a glimpse into the ways in which the Ainu use expressive culture to perform, understand, and create new avenues to express and construct a sense of Ainuness through propelling activities rather than rebuilding ones.
The ethnographic settings presented in this dissertation collectively probe themes of traditionality, authenticity, performativity, Indigeneity, and agency. I argue that a rigid
application of these terms tends to cast Indigenous expression, presentation, and performance as inauthentic or as constructed tradition and in the process ignore Indigenous peoples’ active and nuanced roles in asserting their ethnicity on their own terms. Re-framing descriptions of Indigenous peoples’ artistic output as intentional and dynamic not only gives voice to Indigenous people but levels the playing field by viewing Indigenous creativity as deserving of support rather than needing rescue and resuscitation.
Description:Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2015.
Includes bibliographical references.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - Music

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