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The Sun Never Sets on Little Black Sambo

The Sun Never Sets on Little Black Sambo

Circuits of Affection and the Cultural Hermeneutics of Chibikuro Sambo—A Transpacific Approach

(p.304) 14 The Sun Never Sets on Little Black Sambo
The Affect of Difference
William H. Bridges IV
University of Hawai'i Press

The life, or more properly, afterlife of the 1953 publication and reception of Chibikuro Sambo—the Japanese translation of Helen Bannerman’s Little Black Sambo (1899)—exemplifies what Steven Mailloux calls rhetorical hermeneutics, or the “tropes, arguments, and narratives constituting the interpretations of texts at specific times and places.” The specter of imperialism haunts the text. Little Black Sambo was written at the zenith of British power by a Scotswoman stationed in India; the Iwanami version included illustrations originally commissioned by an American publishing house in the 1920s. To read the work in the context of the history of postwar Japan, we must first read the traces left by the imperial regimes it traversed. Western imperial writings on race created circuits of affection and a language of sentiment that determined postwar Japanese receptions, especially how critics felt about the affective racial difference of Sambo and, by proxy, of the postwar Japanese.

Keywords:   Little Black Sambo, Chibikuro Sambo, Afro-Japanese, Black Pacific, cultural hermeneutics, circuits of affection, Helen Bannerman, Steven Mailloux, Iwanami Publishing

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