The Embryo Hunts in Public: Eugenics, the Atomic Bomb, and the Politics of Visibility in Japanese Film Culture, 1957-1966

Oct 1, 2019 | 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Kinoshita Chika (Associate Professor, Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kyoto University; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2019-20)
Chair/discussant: Alexander Zahlten (Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University)

Co-sponsored by the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies

In the mid 1960s, fetal images emerged in the limelight in film and visual culture across national boundaries, from Lennart Nilsson’s photo essay “Drama of Life Before Birth” (LIFE, April 30, 1965) to the opening roll of Wakamatsu Kōji’s exploitation classic The Embryo Hunts in Secret (胎児が密猟する時, 1966) and Stanley Kubrick’s famous Star Child at the close of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Engaging in dialogue with feminist critique of those fetal images, this presentation sheds new light on the cinematic formation of the fetal subject and its concomitant transformation of the maternal body into its environment in Japan. Specifically, I place them within the historical and geopolitical context of the late 1950s by analyzing Kamei Fumio’s anti-nuclear documentary The World in Fear (世界は恐怖する 1957) as a complex and highly contentious mélange of eugenic thoughts, the discourse on motherhood, the Cold War politics, and montage aesthetics.