‘The World is Our Campus’: Michigan State University and Cold-War Home Economics in US-occupied Okinawa, 1945–1972



Since the rape of a twelve-year-old girl by three American marines in Okinawa in 1995, a trope of masculinised domination and feminised subjugation has shaped many feminist discussions of US-Okinawa relations. However, post-war US domination in Okinawa has entailed far more complex dynamics involving gender and nation. This article examines domestic reformism that flourished in US-occupied Okinawa where a group of home economists and home demonstration agents dispatched from Michigan State University (MSU) played an instrumental role in disseminating ‘scientific domesticity’. Following the land-grant philosophy of educational outreach and self-help, MSU home economists engaged in a series of domestic reform activities where they attempted to transplant notions and practices of ‘scientific domesticity’ and modernise and empower local women. Taking place amidst the intense militarisation of Okinawa under American rule, domestic reformism generated much excitement and enthusiasm among local women. By analysing how domesticity and militarism became intertwined in post-war Okinawa, the article explores the complex links between domesticity, international educational aid, militarism and the cold war in the Asia-Pacific region.