College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

World Languages and Cultures

CSUMB Students Headed to Okinawa for Research

Two students and one professor from CSU Monterey Bay are embarking on a month-long research trip to Okinawa this summer. Kai Jones (Japanese Language and Culture) and Kyle Hill (Japanese Language and Culture, Global Studies) are traveling with Dustin Wright, Assistant Professor of Japanese Culture and Language in the School of World Languages and Cultures, to Japan’s southernmost prefecture. They will join other members of the Okinawa Memories Initiative (OMI), a cross-Pacific collaborative research project that explores postwar Okinawan history and culture.

From left to right: Kai Jones, Dr. Dustin Wright, Kyle Hill.
Photo by: Gus Leonard
From left to right: Kai Jones, Dr. Dustin Wright, Kyle Hill.

Based at UC Santa Cruz and teamed with CSU Monterey Bay and CSU East Bay, OMI began as “The Gail Project,” which was launched when a collection of photos taken by a U.S. Army dentist who was stationed in Okinawa during the Korean War were donated to UCSC. As OMI Director and UCSC Associate Professor of History Alan Christy describes, “the photos were taken just before the US expanded their military bases in Okinawa 1000% and so represented the last moments of the lifestyles and landscapes they depicted.” Many of the photos capture scenes of everyday life: fish markets, children playing in the streets, shopkeepers, and so forth. Other photos depict the dramatic subtropical landscapes. Using the photos as a launching pad for a broader study of Okinawa, the OMI team now includes faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, Salinas high school educators, filmmakers and photographers, oral historians, and journalists.

Members will collaborate on a variety of projects, including exhibitions of the photos for the Okinawa community, archival research, and interviews, all in collaboration with students and faculty at the University of the Ryukyus and other regional universities. Building from previous OMI trips Okinawa, this year’s team will continue to seek out the people and places in Gail’s photographs. This year they will also develop open access K-12 and university Okinawan Studies curriculum.

A historian of modern Japan, Professor Wright became involved with the OMI as a graduate student and later a lecturer at UCSC. As Associate Director of the project, he is excited to be able to bring Okinawan Studies to CSUMB and continue collaboration with UCSC. With generous support from OMI funders (at UCSC and beyond), and additional research funding and resources from CSUMB’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center, the Initiative aspires to sustain and expand U.S.-Okinawan educational collaboration.

People interested in learning more about OMI and Okinawan/Japanese Studies at CSUMB are invited to contact Dr. Wright. You can also learn more about Okinawa-related research opportunities at CSUMB through UROC.

Finally, follow OMI’s summer adventures through social media!

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