Mari Yoshihara is a professor of American studies at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, specializing in US cultural history, US-Asian relations, gender studies, literary and cultural studies, and music. She currently serves as the editor of American Quarterly, the journal of the American Studies Association. Her publications include Embracing the East: White Women and American Orientalism (Oxford, 2003), Musicians from a Different Shore: Asians and Asian Americans in Classical Music (Temple, 2007), and numerous books and articles in Japanese. She is currently completing a book, tentatively titled Dearest Lenny: Letters from Japan and the Making of the World Maestro, scheduled for release by Oxford University Press in early 2019.
This project is a comparative study of the political economy of the arts in Japan and the United States. With a particular focus on performing arts and literary arts, I will examine how artistic practices in the two societies are shaped by state policy, mechanisms of public and private patronage, and market forces as well as public discourses about national identity, cultural diversity, and globalization. I will combine this structural analysis with an ethnographic study of the process of artistic production and a textual analysis of select works of art. The similarities and differences between Japan and the United States make them a useful pair for comparison in considering questions such as: What specific role do the arts play in each society? How do public and private interests shape artistic practices and communities? Who determines which art forms and/or artists get support, and according to what criteria? What art forms and/or artists are authorized to represent the nation? How do the discourses about national identity and heritage shape artistic practices? How can productive forms of collaboration between art, the state, and business be created? How do policymakers and administrators envision cultural diplomacy, and how effective are such programs in shaping international relations? During the fellowship tenure, I will conduct data collection and analysis for the policy dimension of the project. First, I will examine the records related to the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Agency for Cultural Affairs (ACA, Bunka-cho) in order to analyze the political, economic, and cultural contexts that shaped the missions of these institutions, the issues that were raised by the advocates and opponents of state sponsorship of the arts, and the ways in which the scope and emphasis of each institution were determined. Second, I will collect quantitative and qualitative data on some of the specific programs sponsored by these institutions, including: the NEA’s Big Read, Operation Homecoming, and American Masterpieces; and the ACA’s the Japan Arts Fund and the Japanese Literature Publishing Project. I will also interview previous and current staff of these institutions and experts who have served on these programs in various capacities. Finally, I will conduct ethnographic fieldwork on the practice of artistic production. This will entail interviews with some of the artists who have received funding through these programs and, where appropriate and feasible, observations of the production process such as rehearsals, workshops, and performances. I will also do close textual analysis of select key pieces of literary, theatrical, and musical works that have been funded by these programs.