"The Martial Islands": Making Marshallese Masculinities between American and Japanese Militarism

Gregory Eric Dvorak

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    For over a century, the Marshall Islands have been entangled between the United States and Japan in their conquest of the Central Pacific; yet because of this, these islands have also been a place where multiple masculinities have converged, competed, and transformed each other. This is especially true around the site of Kwajalein Atoll, where terrain understood in Marshallese terms as female or maternal has been reshaped and masculinized through the semiotics of colonialism and militarization. This article focuses specifically on three local representations of masculinity: the knowledgeable but strategic Marshallese "Etao," symbolized by a creative and resourceful male trickster spirit; the heroic but paternalistic American "Patriot," as enacted via the perpetual battlefield of military and weapons-testing missions; and the adventurous but self-sacrificing "Dankichi," deployed in Japan during the 1930s and echoed nowadays in the long-distance tuna-fishing industry. Cross-reading Judith Butler and R W Connell, this is an exploration of the "theater" of these masculinities in relationship to one another, and the story of how different superpowers strive for domination by emasculating a third colonial site and its subjects.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)55-86
    JournalThe Contemporary Pacific
    Issue number1 (Spring)
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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