Organized Panel Session
As it has elsewhere, “politics” has a dirty ring to it in Japan, evoking messy fights over outcomes, divisive rhetoric, and corrupt networks that guarantee bad faith and even worse results. The papers in this panel emerge from diverse research disciplines and methods to investigate how Japanese activists, officials, writers, and others have depicted themselves as solving problems or building community. In his analysis of the 1960s AMPO protests and its participants, Nick Kapur traces the “non-poli,” or those who explicitly labeled themselves bystanders to the political divisions of the era, and their subsequent forms of engagement. Eiko Maruko Siniawer’s paper examines the 1970s environmental movement and the ways in which waste consciousness was shaped around the preservation rather than disruption of middle-class lives. Based on recent ethnographic fieldwork, Vivian Shaw's paper on the parallel rise of xenophobic hate speech and anti-racism collective action in the aftermath of Japan’s 2011 disaster engages Japan’s intersectional politics, suggesting that state and activist responses to racism can ultimately exacerbate gender inequalities. Also building from recent ethnographic fieldwork, Lieba Faier’s paper on anti-trafficking initiatives highlights the gap between two potential ways of drawing attention away from the ostensibly political: the dry, methodical, prescriptive language of official accounts, and from the intimate, affective, and invested terms of NGO workers identifying with the victims. If Japan’s political world has occasionally been described as static, it may well be because most political work — struggles over justice and progress — takes place explicitly outside its defined walls.