AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 700

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Session 700: Globalization of Japanese Social Movements: Transnational Activism, Cosmopolitanism, Glocalization?

Organizer: Annamari Konttinen, University of Turku, Finland

Discussants: Jennifer Chan, University of British Columbia, Canada; Daishiro Nomiya, Sophia University, Japan

This panel combines perspectives of sociology, political science and intellectual history to address issues of globalization in Japanese social movements. The study of intellectual history of Japanese civic activism shows that transnational networking is not a novel phenomenon. The nature of transnational ties has been transformed, however, by the development of communication technologies, increased mobility of people, and transfer of information. National mobilization motivated by global concerns, such as the threat of war or the climate change has been supplemented by transnational activism, increasingly global mentalities and multicultural or cosmopolitan identities. We seek to gain a deeper understanding of these developments by studying the interaction between indigenous social movements of Japan and international norms. The formation of national, citizen and activist identities are studied against the backdrop of diffusion of resources, norms, ideas and forms of action as well as Japan’s role in the international community. Globalization supports activist identity in Japan: Japan’s wish to become a recognized and actively contributing member of the international community creates ties with a normative community that many activists can readily relate to. The increased significance of international norms also transforms the field of political opportunities for civic activism and contributes to the political success it enjoys. As Japanese social movement organizations have traditionally derived their strength from their unique ties with the local communities, it is important to ask how the local and the global interact in the processes of civic mobilization and formation of activist identities. Are we observing increased glocalization, or the development of genuinely cosmopolitan ethos and global mentalities?

Glocal Islam: Muslim nongovernmental organizations and Multicultural Japan
Jennifer Chan, University of British Columbia, Canada

The issue of Muslim minority rights in multicultural societies has gained renewed interest in the post September 11 context. Caught between an academic and political discourse of multiculturalism on the one hand and the global war on terror on the other, Muslim minorities in many countries find themselves being subject to continuous tests of citizenship. How have grassroots Muslim organizations responded to the challenge? While Islam in the West has received significant scholarly and policy interests, there is little empirical research on Muslim communities in Japan. Based in fieldwork in Japan in 2008, this paper looks at various forms of civic associational activities in which Muslims in Japan are engaged. Using Cesari’s (2004) notion of global Islam as transnational networking, I examine the diverse ways in which social ties are created through Muslim nongovernmental activities in Japan. The presentation focuses on 1) the historical and political contexts of activism 2) diversity and tensions within the Muslim communities 3) relationships with the state and 4) the extent of global connections. While the predominant dual statist discourses of national security and immigration tend to reduce Muslim minorities into fundamentalist religious identities and/or illegal migrants, emergent Muslim civic activism has sparked new contestations over the definitions of Islam, Muslim identity and rights, and multiculturalism in Japan.

Growing global: Changing nature of global social movements in Japan
Daishiro Nomiya, Sophia University, Japan

The paper revisits an old sociological question: structure and agency. Using the Japanese cases of global social movement campaigns that took place during the G8 summit period in the year 2000 and 2008 respectively, it examines the relationship between structural constraints and spontaneity of the actor, specifically the working of both structural conditions and movement actors’ aspirations toward the construction of the movement organizations. Global social movement (hereafter GSM) campaign offers a prime case for examining the process of social organization, as one campaign of such kinds usually starts its organization approximately a year prior to the political gathering of a global magnitude, such as the IMF and WTO ministerial meeting and the G8 summit, and shuts it down once the political conference is over. In each campaign can thus be observed actions and intended purpose and goal of the actors as well as the socio-political constraints that altogether constitute its environment. Global political opportunity structure and the nature of GSM campaigns prior to the campaign in question constitute the structural constraints of the movement campaign, whereas movement actors’ mind-set, their own perceptions of the campaign and meaning signification, and interpretations of the possible outcome of the campaign form the spontaneous aspect of the campaign. The analysis result confirms the working of both structural constraints and actors’ spontaneity. Moreover, it shows that the actors’ spontaneous intention and the meaning attributed to the campaign functioned as a “constraint of its own”, above beyond the usual structural constraints, in organizing and molding the movement campaign.

Transformations in Activist Consciousness in the Globalizing 1990's: Japanese Environmentalists
Annamari Konttinen, University of Turku, Finland

The interdependencies of nation-states in facing global environmental threats and concerns have forged new kinds of interrelationships between domestic and international actors. Awareness of global environmental problems transformed significantly during and immediately after the so-called environmental boom of late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The 1990s have at the same time frequently been called the era of the emergence of Japanese civil society. My paper discusses how the Western-style environmentalism influenced the Japanese environmental movement of the ‘90s, and how it interacted with the indigenous elements therein. The perspective is micro-sociological: I study the life-story interviews of environmental activists, and how they use linguistic, argumentative and narrative strategies in the construction of discourses about "the Japanese" and "Japan" when defining and representing themselves and their role and agency in society. What role does the juxtaposition of Japaneseness and foreignness have in these discourses? Is there room for cosmopolitan identities? Close attention will also be paid to how the informants discuss the dynamics of their relationships with their immediate social environments and with the decision-making system they attempt to influence. The accounts of these relationships reveal sometimes contradictory and fragmented patterns of alliance and confrontation. Many of the activists identify with the global moral community represented in the interviews simply by the notion of “foreign countries” as a desirable model for developing a more ecological society. The categories of “ecology” and “environment” themselves become vehicles for a range of critiques directed at the establishment.

Japanese Public Intellectuals and the Development of Global Environmentalism
Simon A. Avenell, Australian National University, Australia

This paper examines the ideas and activism of leading public intellectuals in the Japanese environmental movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Pioneers like Tsuru Shigeto, Miyamoto Ken’ichi, and Ui Jun played formative roles in stimulating and shaping public discourse on the environment, in introducing Japanese industrial pollution to the outside world, and in influencing landmark legislative and judicial developments. From a global-historical perspective, they occupied a similar space to individuals and groups such as Rachel Carson, Paul Ehrlich, Barry Commoner, and the Club of Rome. Because of their privileged status they were able to build strong international networks for the exchange of scientific information and the formation of political movements. One of their key organizations, the Pollution Research Committee (Kōgai Kenkyū Iinkai), for example, conducted surveys of polluted areas such Yokkaichi City, organized influential international conferences, and offered expert witnesses in pollution court cases. With extensive financial and institutional support from the then Ministry of Health and Welfare, this committee and its members became pioneering environmental advocates, often advancing positions deeply at odds with the prevailing political and economic mindset. The paper attempts to situate these public intellectuals and their activities in an increasingly-global environmental movement from the 1960s onwards.

A Constitution for Humanity: The Article 9 Association and Its Reflection of Japan’s Peaceful Aspirations in the Global Age
Yoko Iida Wang, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

The 1946 Constitution of Japan, and in particular its Peace Clause Article 9, has been playing a pivotal role in post-World War II international politics and in the relationship between Japan and the United States. Even though the creation of the Self-Defense Force and its operation under the US-Japan Security Treaty brought about a radical legal contradiction to the ruling of the Constitution, attempts to revise it have proved to be virtually futile for several decades. How has this been the case? This study explores the structure of the meanings attached to the Constitution of Japan through a qualitative analysis of the narrative of the Article 9 Association (Kyūjō no kai), a social movement organization whose goal is to prevent a revision of the Constitution. In response to the formation of the Article 9 Association in 2004, the Japanese public created 7,443 local chapters in the following five years, clearly expressing their support for the movement. My analysis of the Association’s narrative demonstrates the values embraced by the people who hope to maintain the current Constitution; explains why the Constitution has become a cornerstone for many Japanese and the society they desire; and maps out how the meaning of the Constitution evolved over the sixty post-war years to the point where the Japanese people aspire to global peace based on the value reflected in their national Constitution.