Travis is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and loves that he is able to make a living (such as it is at the moment on grad student stipends) engaging with Japanese & Luchuan history & traditional art, rather than with charts & figures, paperwork and business meetings.
I hold an MA in Japanese Studies and one in Art History, and have interned in the Japanese art sections of several prominent cultural institutions. I aspire towards a career either as a professor and scholar of Japanese & Luchuan history, or in the museum world or another capacity, working with Japanese & Luchuan history, art, and culture. I have also done a second field of readings in Hawaiian & Polynesian histories, and I very much hope in future to get the chance to teach courses, or design exhibits, on this woefully under-appreciated, under-discussed, massive part of the world.
I have been fortunate to spend considerable time in Japan and Hawaiʻi, and to visit Okinawa quite a few times now, though only for a week or so at a time. I play sanshin, have tried my hand very tentatively at Okinawan dance, and kabuki, and very much miss the almost daily feeling of cultural engagement I had at the East-West Center and the Art & Art History department at the University of Hawaiʻi. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, sometimes. I am eager to return to Japan, to Okinawa in particular, and to Hawaii, and to become more properly engaged, in a more long-term sort of way, in local communities – i.e. the art scene, events and goings-on.
I am, like we all are, a work in progress. My views and attitudes change as I continue to learn. I initially began studying Japanese and Luchuan history purely out of interest, because it was different, beautiful, interesting, intriguing, and because I felt strongly that in as diverse a country as the United States, and in an ever-increasingly globalizing world, we should not restrict ourselves to Western perspectives, to US- and Euro-centric attitudes based on US- and Eurocentric understandings of history and culture. For these reasons I continue to pursue the understanding of non-Western cultures, and aim to do what little I can, in my humble little life, to teach others to similarly take a more non-Western, and global, point of view. I cannot change who I am – I was born a white male, and a US citizen, and none of those three things are likely to change. I thus cannot help but speak as an American white male. But I do what I can to keep learning, to keep my mind open, to hear others’ voices, and to pass along what I have learned from them.
(1) My icon is cropped from a photo I took at the Edo-Tokyo Museum, of a mannequin designed after the kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjûrô XI, dressed as the kabuki character Sukeroku. I am not of Japanese or Luchuan descent and I do not pretend to be. Just to be sure that’s clear, in this world of identity politics, cultural appropriation, and so forth.
(2) This blog serves as a place for me to share my thoughts on various topics, and to otherwise just share news, websites, books, or the like that I come across; it serves as a place for me to do so without feeling restrained by the requirements of academic rigor. I post here not in my professional capacity as an aspiring scholar, but in my personal, private capacity as a thinking person with interests and experiences. If you like what you see, then, well, thank you. I’m flattered. But if you think that what you see here is not professional enough, rigorous enough, to stand as proper scholarship, well, it’s not meant to be that.
If we were all limited to only writing what was of the utmost quality, refined over dozens and dozens of edits, not only would we produce a whole lot less, but we would produce on a whole lot fewer topics. In my scholarship, I restrict myself, as we all do, to a rather narrow set of topics. This blog here is my space to get to engage in other topics, and interact with the wider internet, the wider world, on a wider set of things that interest me, and I am so glad to be able to have such an outlet.
On a similar note, I am sure there are things in here that I have left unaccounted for, things I have misrepresented or simply not said as clearly, as strongly, or as properly as I might have. I ask your forgiveness and your allowance for such things. We are all only human, and life is a constant process of learning and growing. I hope I manage to consistently and sufficiently give others the benefit of the doubt, and I hope that you will do the same for me.
One of the wonderful things about blogging is that it is different from, separate from, professional academic writing, or professional journalism, and does not have to be a perfectly refined argument, accounting for all the variables, covering all the possible counter-arguments. What I have here are just some thoughts; hopefully they are on the right track. Hopefully they are useful, meaningful, towards informing or inspiring further investigation. I will continue to read, and to think, and to write, and to hopefully continue to come to fuller, more complex, more nuanced, more thoroughly understood understandings of these sensitive and oh-so important matters. This is just one step along the way, and I ask your forgiveness and understanding if anything I write here is a misstep, in the steps along that path.
Thank you so much for reading, and please do feel free to leave comments!