A Critique of Critical Race Theory: a Textual Analysis of the ‘Mr. Gaijin’ Mask

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Sakata, Fumi
Critical Race Theory , Japan , Gaijin , Whiteness
The thesis suggests the toy-like mask of a white man, ‘Hello, Mr. Gaijin,’ as a site of analysis where the culture of racisms is (re)produced in the specific context of contemporary Japan. Sold as a gig gift in Japan, the mask, consisting of two stickers for blue-eyes and a prominent plastic nose, embodies the popularized image of whiteness in Japan, and presents it as a source of fascination as well as ridicule and mockery. Approaching this mask as an analytical text, I ask: How is race manifested in the Japanese culture? C. W. Mills (1997) suggests that there exists a global system that privileges whites and normalizes their beneficial racial position. This trend is certainly omnipresent in contemporary Japan, where one observes the sense of superiority being affixed to the white body in the frequent use of white models in the media (Creighton, 1997). Yet, how is this theory of white supremacy significantly complicated by the particular representations of whiteness seen in the ‘Hello, Mr. Gaijin’ mask? Through mimicry, the power of whiteness is mocked and commodified into a sleazy toy mask. Critically engaging with these primary questions, the thesis situates the analysis of the ‘Hello, Mr. Gaijin’ mask within the particular history of racialization developed in Japan where the culture of whiteness holds its unique complexity and significance in the society. Drawing largely on the idea of ‘the culture of racisms’ that Goldberg (1993) suggests, the thesis argues that the seemingly contradictory sentiment towards whiteness embodied in the mask presents the key to the holistic understanding of Japan’s particular culture of racisms. Specifically, it analyzes three levels of transformation that the mask presents in embodying the particular culture of racisms: the discursive transformation of whites into gaijin; the temporal physical transformation of the user into Mr. Gaijin; the visual and material transformation of whites into the toy-mask.
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