Energy and Identity: Women, History, and Anti-Nuclear Social Movements in Japan

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: 501
Oral Presentation
Vivian SHAW , Sociology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Since March 11, 2011 (3/11), some Japanese citizens have responded to the ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis by staging large protests against the use of nuclear energy in major metropolitan areas. Within this revival of anti-nuclear collective action, scholars and global news media have argued that the prominent role of women, who have been observed leading “tent city” occupations in Tokyo and organizing rallies in other cities, signals an important event with potential implications for the changing status of gender in Japanese public politics. 

Applying a historical frame to the contemporary case of women’s leadership in post-3/11 activism, this paper challenges a simplified narrative of feminist emergence, instead arguing that contemporary anti-nuclear politics must be read as part of a longer context of women’s organizing in Japan throughout the twentieth century. Moreover, this history of social movements also reveals important divisions within Japanese women’s movements across lines of race, coloniality, and citizenship. In this paper, I deconstruct the concept of “anti-nuclear” and examine how this politics converges with other histories of post-war women’s collective organizing, particularly examining the roles of Japanese women in the related histories of peace and anti-militarization social movements.

In arguing how gender has politically and rhetorically functioned as a method of organizing Japanese public politics, I challenge notions that Japanese women, in the context of social movements, should be viewed simply as a formation of collective identity. Rather, the different meanings of women’s identities within these cases suggests the importance of reading Japanese women’s social movements in relation to various political contestations at the “local” and transnational levels and moreover, in terms of what they are able to signify about race, coloniality, and citizenship.