BA, Duke University, Cultural Anthropology, 1996
MA, University of California, Berkeley, Anthropology, 2002
PhD, University of California, Berkeley, Anthropology, 2016
I am a Cultural Anthropologist and a instructor of Anthropology, East Asian Studies and the African and Africa Diaspora Program.
My research interests have been shaped by the many contrasting stories of Okinawa I heard growing up. Some came from my Okinawan mother, born well before the devastating Battle of Okinawa. Others came from my Black American father who left the segregated US South, enlisted in the Air Force and was stationed in Okinawa before it reverted back to Japan in 1972. Other times I absorbed them from other family members in Okinawa or military families my parents befriended at some point in their non-stop circulation of “tours of duty.” What always struck me as odd and fascinating was how strikingly different the narratives of this small island peppered with US American military bases were shaped. The talk about their movement through extralegal and shadowy spaces around the borderlands of the bases especially peaked my interest: black markets, segregated spaces off base, the uncanny ways in which security is imagined, reworked and racially embodied along the fencelines.
These stories stayed with me on my long interdisciplinary route through academia and fieldwork. My research investigates how people living in militarized spaces like Okinawa, make sense of their lives and how they come to understand local, national and global security. To fully analyze these particular practices, I engage with theories of diaspora and the Black Pacific, “flexible citizenship,” and radical forms of “flow” and transnational movement.
With the ever increasing consolidation of joint US-Japanese military power in Okinawa and the attempts to secure the narratives to frame “sacrifice” and “global security,” my research examines security in two ways:
First, I analyze how security discourse is framed through commercial and military touristic perspectives in Okinawa; through narratives circulated within communities of US military networks globally; through the particular mapping Okinawa in the binary of on/off base spaces; and through the racialized frameworks underpinning narratives of secure citizens.
Because life situated within Okinawan partial sovereignty is always affected by the rubric of national security, my long term ethnographic research centers on the people most vulnerable to the discursive claims of security talk — women, children, mixed race Okinawans, military personnel of color, and economically insecure US military personnel. By doing long-term, multi-sited fieldwork, I was able to note patterns in how ideas of flow, commercialized forms of hybridity and “third space” ideologies operate to dodge some disciplining effects of state power for these different actors. I pay close attention to when and how the various concepts of security consolidate and what precipitates the fragmentation of those imaginaries for US Americans and Okinawans living in Okinawa, Japan.
If you are still wondering what else I do academically and would like a quick summary of the courses I teach and few other nuggets to get a sense for my interests, I’ve bullet pointed a few highlights below:
• Courses I teach/have taught at FIU: World Ethnographies, Introduction to Asian Studies, Introduction to Anthropology, Introduction to Race and Ethnicity; Anthropological Theories; Anthropology of Globalization; Global Capitalism and the African Diaspora in the Modern World System
• Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellow, Japanese Ministry of Education and Culture, University of the Ryukyus (2011-2012)
• Hapa Japan Executive Board Member, University Southern California. Spring 2015-present
• Latest work translated into Japanese in Dismantling the Race Myth, edited by Y. Takezawa and K. Kawashima, University of Tokyo Press, 2016. • Latest peer-reviewed work in Journal of Intercultural Studies, 35:6, 646-661, 2014.
Other interests: Public Anthropology; Blackness in Bolivia, Visual Ethnography, Critical Mixed Race Studies