WHAT IS “AUTHENTIC” CULTURE? WHY DO WE CARE APPEARANCE?

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Daisuke Tohyama

WHAT IS “AUTHENTIC” CULTURE? WHY DO WE CARE APPEARANCE?

Through the workshop by Denise Uyehara, I learned three things. First, I rethink the definitions of authentic culture. For example, who is the expert of the culture? What is the qualification of that?  In one of her works called Transitions, with James Luna, Indian-Mexican American, she explores many types of transitions. Some of them are transitions which she made up. By showing real or unreal transitions, she asks us what the authentic culture is. In that context, she demonstrates body can be an expert and that any culture can be perceived authentic. Although I came straight from an Asian country, I could not recognize what is real transition or not. When Luna shows a can of SPAM during performance, I was surprised and laughing.

 

In the workshop, I also learned that the direct experiences are not necessary to be attached to a cultural or ethical identity once more. While Uyehara has never experienced the internment of Japanese American during World War Ⅱnor the tragic battle in Okinawa, her works talk about these historical events.

I also learned relationship between stereotypes and appearances. Uyeharavisited Okinawa. I am not sure whether she was told that Okinawa was tragic place or a place which has US military base as a little girl. However, she mentioned in the workshop that many Okinawan were very welcome to her because her face looked like Japanese or Okinawan. In Japan a visitor who has different appearance from Japanese are treated as “Gaikokuzin, a foreigner”. Especially in Okinawa the image of US military is bad for Okinawan because owning military has big risks such as higher rate of crime and air-plane accidents for Okinawan. Then what I imagine is that what if she did not look Japanese such as Caucasian. Will they treat her in same way? If she were treated negatively, Okinawa is still an important place for her? How she would change her identity? Appearance is one of important factor in the way people treat you. Because you look Asian, some people treat you as smart or good at math. Because you look Middle East Asian, some people consider you as a crucial and aggressive terrorist. Because you look African American, you may be considered aggressive or dangerous and killed by some people. Appearance reminds people of some stereotypes. We should rethink how appearance leads to stereotypes.

We have to rethink what is the authentic culture and how appearance can be related to stereotypes to protect ourselves and speak out against main stream society.

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