Memories of Struggles: Translocal Lives in Okinawan Anti-Base Activism

Main Article Content

Shinnosuke Takahashi


One of the key characteristics of recent Japanese grassroots civic activism is the number of individual citizens who began to go out on the streets to participate in public demonstrations. In many places around Japan, people who used to be seen as ‘apolitical,’ such as youth, office workers (so-called salary-men and salary-women) and other individuals, now join and lead public demonstrations that address a range of pressing social issues and problems, including nuclear energy, workplace harassment and constitutional change. Today the ‘progressiveness’ of activism is born from, and reinforced by, participants’ own everyday concerns. By associating larger social injustices with personalized forms of concern, today’s progressive movements enable what perhaps used to be overlooked as private issues to become inspiration for collective actions. Therefore, these civic movements encompass a mixture of different personal and social narratives, symbols, styles and objectives; they are not homogenous about ‘who we are’ and ‘what we want.’ By highlighting two case studies that shed light on the Okinawan decolonization movement, I argue that the translocal participation of different social actors in creating a particular sense of ‘locality,’ or place-based identity, is essential in understanding the complexity of collective representation. The Okinawan decolonization movement, primarily represented in the form of the Okinawan anti-US base struggle, is particularly important because it demonstrates how place-based identity maintains rootedness and boundedness of locality while maintaining inclusivity to extra-locality. Okinawa’s case can be an important contribution to the field that enables us to extend our geo-social imagination over the new forms of contentious politics and collectivity in today’s world.

Article Details

Decolonisation: Ripples in the Asia Pacific Special Issue 2019 (Peer Reviewed)