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Racist Attachments: Dakko-chan, Black Kitsch, and Kawaii Culture

Racist Attachments: Dakko-chan, Black Kitsch, and Kawaii Culture This article explores the ties between anti-Black racist kitsch and kawaii culture through the history of the Dakko-chan doll. In what came to be called the “Dakko-chan boom” of 1960, tens of thousands of Japanese people lined up to purchase an inflatable blackface doll with a circular red mouth, grass skirt, and winking hologram eyes. Dakko means “to hug,” and Dakko-chan's astronomical popularity resulted in part from the way the doll could be worn as an accessory, attached to the body by its hugging arms. This article asks what it meant for Japan, a nation still recovering from World War II and the American occupation, to quite literally embrace American blackface in the form of an embraceable doll. Rejecting the claim that blackface loses its significance in a Japanese context, this article argues that Dakko-chan cannot be considered devoid of racist meanings. Emerging amid the political turmoil surrounding the revision of the US-Japan Security Treaty, Dakko-chan came to express a wide range of contradictory feelings about race, sex, and nation, illustrating how affective attachments to racist forms have accrued rather than dissipated through their movement into new cultural contexts. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png positions Duke University Press

Racist Attachments: Dakko-chan, Black Kitsch, and Kawaii Culture

positions , Volume 30 (1) – Feb 1, 2022

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References (48)

Copyright
Copyright 2022 by Duke University Press
ISSN
1067-9847
eISSN
1527-8271
DOI
10.1215/10679847-9418007
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This article explores the ties between anti-Black racist kitsch and kawaii culture through the history of the Dakko-chan doll. In what came to be called the “Dakko-chan boom” of 1960, tens of thousands of Japanese people lined up to purchase an inflatable blackface doll with a circular red mouth, grass skirt, and winking hologram eyes. Dakko means “to hug,” and Dakko-chan's astronomical popularity resulted in part from the way the doll could be worn as an accessory, attached to the body by its hugging arms. This article asks what it meant for Japan, a nation still recovering from World War II and the American occupation, to quite literally embrace American blackface in the form of an embraceable doll. Rejecting the claim that blackface loses its significance in a Japanese context, this article argues that Dakko-chan cannot be considered devoid of racist meanings. Emerging amid the political turmoil surrounding the revision of the US-Japan Security Treaty, Dakko-chan came to express a wide range of contradictory feelings about race, sex, and nation, illustrating how affective attachments to racist forms have accrued rather than dissipated through their movement into new cultural contexts.

Journal

positionsDuke University Press

Published: Feb 1, 2022

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