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Woman Pretending to Be a Man Pretending to Be a Woman: Women Actors in the All Male Kabuki Theater – A talk by Maki Morinaga

September 22, 2005Aaron Victorin-VangerudEvents, FellowsComments Off on Woman Pretending to Be a Man Pretending to Be a Woman: Women Actors in the All Male Kabuki Theater – A talk by Maki Morinaga

Beyond the studies of Japanese theater, onnagata, “female impersonators” of the kabuki theater, must be of acute interdisciplinary interest. Onnagata are regarded as having played the role of the “paragons” of womanhood in seventeenth- through nineteenth-century Japan, not only theatrically but also socially. For women’s studies, therefore,onnagata can provide an intriguing case study in which their gender amounts to a specific element to help explain femininity. For gender studies, onnagata‘s gender dramatically visualizes some aspects of the current theoretical understanding of gender: performativity and contingency. Furthermore, the gender of onnagata is beneficial to gender studies because it can problematize some elements of gender that are customarily naturalized and made invisible.

Maki (Isaka) Morinaga is a professor of Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Minnesota.

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