Christine Yano, PhD
Professor and Department ChairBackground
I have undergraduate degrees in Communication (Film) from Stanford University and Musicology (Ethnomusicology) from the University of Michigan. My graduate degrees are all from the University of Hawai'i, M.A. in Musicology (Ethnomusicology) and Anthropology, and Ph.D. in Anthropology. My Ph.D. work was on a Japanese popular music genre, enka, which I analyzed as a cultural form that incorporates constructions of emotion, gender, and the nation. The book form of that dissertation has been published as Tears of Longing: Nostalgia and the Nation in Japanese Popular Song (2002) by Harvard University Asia Center/ Harvard University Press.
With Japan, and more recently Japanese Americans, as a focus, my interests lie in the processes by which nation-cultures construct and sustain themselves, in particular in forms of popular culture. Therefore I look at music and other consumer goods with an eye to their interactions within the larger frameworks of gender, class, nationalism, and globalism.
I am currently involved in several projects, some of which are offshoots from my original work on enka. One of them analyzes various popular musics around the world that might be subsumed under the label "country music" - that is, music that locates itself within a language of rusticity, indigeneity, and sentimentality. Some of these are derived from American country music; others are related only through common issues and themes. My co-editor, Aaron Fox (Columbia University), and I include musics from Australia, Papua New Guinea, Hawai'i, Brazil, Egypt, Japan, Indonesia, and the U.S. Our aim is to examine these country musics as signifiers of global processes that link emotion and song through nostalgized expression.
Another music-related project focuses on deceased Japanese postwar diva, Misora Hibari, whose current fandom may be interpreted as a site of collective memory. Having joined her fan club in 1999, I have been attending yearly meetings and charting her continuing popularity. I focus in particular on her female fans-those who call themselves 'Hibari's generation' and see in Hibari fictive kin ties of mother and elder sister, as well as lover. This affective community of fans pinpoints Hibari as the center of an emotional life often rooted in pastness.
During 2001-2002, I conducted research on a Japanese American beauty contest in Hawai'i known as the Cherry Blossom Festival Pageant. Through extensive interviews with past and present queens and organizers, as well as archival research, I amassed a quantity of historical and ethnographic data on the event. I interpret the Cherry Blossom Pageant as a production of ethnic/cultural identity that has changed over its fifty-year history as its audiences have shifted. What was once a platform to perform an overtly American identity, has become a cultural event with a complicated relationship to race, ethnicity, and the nation. The book on this topic has been published by University of Hawaii Press in 2006 as Crowning the Nice Girl: Gender, Ethnicity, and Culture in Hawai'i’s Cherry Blossom Festival.
During the academic year 2006-2007 I was in Washington DC at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum as a Verville Fellow to complete research on a relatively new project, “Airborne Dreams: Japanese American Stewardesses with Pan American World Airways, 1955-1972.” This research project focuses on Pan Am’s program to recruit Japanese speakers as flight attendants in the mid-1950s, ostensibly to compete with the newly formed Japan Airlines. I analyze the macro-story of America’s premier international airlines in terms of globalization and Cold War strategizing using, in part, the gendered services of these Asian American women. I also juxtapose the micro-stories of the women themselves as they learn the ways of cosmopolitanism and upper-class service. The results of this research have been published in my new book, Airborne Dreams: Nisei Stewardesses and Pan American World Airways, Duke University Press, 2010. I am currently following up this book with ongoing research in Japan with former Pan Am employees. In this research, I examine Pan American World Airways as a significant part of Japan’s postwar reconstruction and eventual global leader. Pan Am is part of what made Japan consider themselves part of a larger global community.
I have been researching "cute culture" in Japan ever since I began teaching a course on Japanese popular culture (Anth 484). In particular, I focus on Hello Kitty as a consumer item and cultural icon, sold to children and young adult females throughout Japan as well as in other industrial nations. Hello Kitty packages cuteness as an aesthetic, a set of morals, and a prescription for action (or passive inaction). The book on Hello Kitty or “pink globalization” as I dub it, is scheduled to be published by Duke University Press in 2012.
I am curating an exhibit at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii on Obama goods from Japan and Hawai`i. The exhibit is set to open in November 2011, timed to coincide with the meeting of APEC in Honolulu. In 2009, I traveled to Obama, Japan (Fukui) to collect Obama goods and to talk with people. I returned in June 2011 to secure the cooperation of the mayor, Obama supporters, and even the Obama Girls and Boys hula troupe. To my delight, they are all coming to the opening of the exhibit – about thirty people in all. The exhibit, entitled “Obama no Obama: Politics, Goods, and Celebrity” examines the role of commodification in global political processes. Goods range from “Obama in Da House” t-shirts from Hawaii and depictions of President Obama as a tiki god, to Obama action figure dolls, masks, chopsticks, and manju (sweet bean bun) from Japan.
I have been conducting field research on the African-American singer of enka, Jero. To this end, I have attended concerts and interviewed fans in San Francisco, Kyoto, and Berkeley (where he won the New Japan award in 2011). At Berkeley I got to interview the singer himself. The topic of Jero is a bit of a darling child for many budding ethnomusicologists and Japanologists, because of the headline-making nature of his celebrity – that is, an African American (even with some Japanese blood) singing that most traditional of popular song genres in Japan, enka. So I tread warily upon a topic that already feels shopworn. My analysis thus far has been in the context of larger projects: one on African Americans in Japan, and another on biraciality and popular culture in Japan. Both of these perspectives on the popular singer provide rich material for future framings.
The newest research project that I have only just begun is that of `ukulele in Japan, tracing the past and current boom of popularity. I will be interviewing `ukulele musicians in Hawai`i, many of whom earn a significant part of their annual income by touring Japan. I will also be interviewing the many Japanese who are avid fans and players of the music. One Japanese musician and entrepreneur is currently making plans to build an `ukulele museum in Hawai`i. Following those plans is a research opportunity not to be missed.
2011 Airborne Dreams: Nisei Stewardesses and Pan American World Airways. Durham: Duke University Press Books.
2010 “Cover Up: Emergent Authenticity in a Japanese Popular Music Genre.” IN George Plasketes, ed., Play It Again; Cover Songs in Popular Music. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate. Pp. 99-110.
2010 “Becoming Prodigal Japanese: Portraits of Japanese Americans on Japanese Television,” IN Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto, ed., Japanese Television. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Pp. 215-238.
2010 “Reach Out and Touch Someone: Thinking Through Sanrio’s Social Communication Empire,” Japanese Studies 31(2):
2009 “Wink on Pink: Interpreting Japanese Cute as It Grabs the Global Headlines,” Journal of Asian Studies 68(3):1-8.
2008 “Gaze upon Sakura; Imaging Japanese Americans on Japanese TV” IN Kathy Ferguson and Monique Mironesco, eds., Gender and Globalization in Asia and the Pacific: Method, Practice, Theory. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Pp. 101-120.
2008 Co-written with Shuhei Hosokawa (50%), “Popular Music in Modern Japan.” IN Alison Tokita and David Hughes, eds., The Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music. London: Ashgate Publishing Co. Pp. 345-362.
2007 “Side Dish Kitchens: Japanese-American Delicatessens in Honolulu, Hawaii” IN David Beriss and David Sutton, eds., The Restaurants Book: Ethnographies of Where We Eat. New York: Berg Publishers. Pp. 47-64.
2007 Co-written with Hirofumi Katsuno (50%). “Kaomoji and Expressivity in a Japanese Housewives’ Chatroom,” IN Brenda Danet and Susan Herring, eds., The Multilingual Internet: Language, Culture and Communication Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pp. 278-300.
2006 Crowning the Nice Girl: Gender, Ethnicity, and Culture in Hawai'i’s Cherry Blossom Festival. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
2006 “Monstering the Japanese Cute: Pink Globalization and Its Critics Abroad,” IN William Tsutsui, eds., In Godzilla’s Footsteps. New York: Palgrave. Pp. 153-166.
2006 “Shifting Plates: Okazuya (Japanese American Delicatessens) in Hawai'i,” Amerasia Journal 32(2).
2005 “Covering Disclosures: Practices of Intimacy, Hierarchy, and Authenticity in a Japanese Popular Music Genre.” Popular Music and Society 28(2):193-205.
2004 “Panic Attacks: Anti-Pokemon Voices in Global Markets,” IN Joseph Tobin, ed., Pikachu’s Global Adventure; The Rise and Fall of Pokemon. Durham: Duke University Press. Pp. 108-138.
2002 Tears of Longing: Nostalgia and the Nation in Japanese Popular Song. Cambridge: Harvard East Asia Center. Harvard University Press.
2006 Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum A. Verville Fellowship. (Airborne Dreams) ($45,000)
page last updated April 18, 2012