Seminar - Okinawa as a reference: On making critical regionalism

Seminar - Shin Takahashi (PhD candidate, School of Culture, History & Language)

Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan, is known for its long-term anti-US base struggles over 60 years. After the Battle of Okinawa during the World War II, in which almost one-third of population in Okinawa Island lost their lives, the area was controlled the first by a US military regime and then by a civil administration which was in fact dominated by military officers, until its return to Japan in 1972. Under the US-Japan Security Alliance system, Okinawa has become highly centralised zone of US military forces - the prefecture contains over 70 per cent of the US military forces in the whole of Japan although it accounts only for approximately 10 per cent of the land area. Throughout the postwar period, Okinawan residents have been taking various kinds of direct action. In other words, as Kosuzu Abe (2010) and Osamu Yakabi (2006) describe, the notion of Okinawan postwar history is equivalent to a "history of direct action" or a "history of people's struggles", not only against US military forces but also against militarism. As one recent phenomenon, we can witness the cross-border extension of Okinawan experiences of direct action against militarism. Places such as Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Philippines, South Korea, and Australia - where the locals struggle with the expansion of US-led world strategy, and with its military presence in their homeland - are trying to share their experiences of struggle and to learn from those of Okinawa. In particular, for over quarter of a century, Okinawan grass-roots activism has been growing social networks with neighbouring areas such as South Korea, by exchanging of people and ideas. It is in this context that the notion of "Okinawa as a Reference" (Sanshouten toshite no Okinawa: 参照点としての沖縄) emerged. (Wakabayashi 2010). Despite the fact that there are some previous studies on anti-US base networks between Okinawa and its overseas counterparts, such studies tend to be unaware of the ambiguity of theoretical problems in the notions of "transnational civil society" or "transnational civil networks": notions which can serve to neglect complexity of the local and regional contexts. In this presentation, firstly I will discuss methodological problems of some recent studies on extension of Okinawan anti-base movement. I will also examine how the social network which Okinawan activism makes with overseas counterparts consists of multilayered practices by diverse actors which problematise not only deployment of US military bases and US-Japan Security Alliance System but also the nature of contemporary colonisalism. "Okinawa as a Reference" is, therefore, an alternative approach to viewing Okinawan postwar history as (re-)created by the connected small acts for critical regionalism.

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