WRITING

MAVO-RICKS: TRANSGENDER TRANSGRESSIONS IN 1920s JAPAN

ABSTRACT

In their 1923 “Mavo Manifesto” (Mavo no sengen), the early 20th century anarchist collective Mavo promised to revolutionise society through a reconceptualization of artistic production. The collective used carefully constructed visual arts, performance, and creativity to challenge directly the rigid social and cultural hegemony that the Japanese state had implemented. Since the mid-19th Century, Japan had been forced to modernise and industrialise by implementing Eurocentric ideologies, such as gender and sexual binaries, within its society. Enforced heteronormative performativity was part of a national mission to establish and control an industrious workforce and military. The issues of autonomy, identity, and subjecthood culminated in the 1920s as artists, writers, philosophers, and politicians reflected upon the state of society and delt with the rise of homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, transphobia, and nationalism. By synthesising interdisciplinary artforms with contemporary philosophy and social critique, Mavo refuted the regulatory matrix imposed on their bodies within the oppressive framework of the regime. This dissertation explores the methodology Mavo employed to subvert this state sponsored oppression, focussing on works that relate to bodily control and gender visuality.

This dissertation was submitted in Autumn 2021 to School of Arts department AT SOAS, University of London and received positive feedback. 

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