Depictions of Samurai in Popular Culture

This project, tentatively titled “Zen Warriors: Samurai in the American Popular Imagination 1945-2001,” analyzes the transformations of a Japanese cultural type in the United States. Drawing upon my earlier work that situates this cultural type as a Japanese reaction against modernity, I examine how this figure became a global phenomenon. To explore the type of Japanese spiritual warrior that the samurai embodies in American cultural production, I draw on a variety of cultural media, such as novels (such as James Clavell’s 1975 Shogun), film (Jim Jarmusch’ 1999 Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai), tv-series (the animated series Samurai Jack and the 1980 tv-show Shogun based on Clavell’s novel), and graphic novels (such as Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo). This cultural history will be the first of its kind, and will contribute to a growing literature on transnational orientalism and modernity.

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