Masamichi S. Inoue. Okinawa and the U.S. Military: Identity Making in the Age of Globalization. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007. xiii + 296 pp. $45.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-231-13890-1.
Reviewed by Jennifer Miller (Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Published on H-US-Japan (December, 2007)
From Local to Global and Back Again
In the contemporary world, the social effects of the U.S. military's global reach are both omnipresent and understudied. While the Iraq War serves as an ongoing headline in both U.S. and international newspapers, this conflict represents only one element of the military's global presence. Indeed, through a network of bases in over one hundred countries, the U.S. military transforms the nature of local societies, contributing to an ongoing dynamic of identity formation, social change, and resistance that alters local interests, and inserts itself into everyday lives. In Okinawa and the U.S. Military, Masamichi S. Inoue explores this dynamic in the context of anti-base activism in Okinawa in the late 1990s. In the process, he examines issues of social organization, class difference, and the crossings among local, national, and global components to untangle conceptualizations of Okinawan identity at the dawn of the twenty-first century.
Using the 1995 rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen as a moment of Okinawan unity, Inoue explains the "profound transformation of Okinawa's collective consciousness" against a background of anti- and pro-base activism (p. 208). Since Tokyo pays Okinawa to host U.S. troops and facilities, Okinawan conservatives and business leaders have rarely spoken out against the widespread U.S. base presence. In the wake of the 1995 rape, however, Okinawans came together in protest, which, along with U.S.-Japanese discussions about returning and realigning U.S. facilities, seemingly opened the door to a reduced base presence. Yet, in 2003, even after Okinawa's governor demanded the return of Futenma Marine Corps Air Station and rejected the construction of an offshore replacement base, little had changed in Okinawa. Challenging the argument that Okinawa continues to provide military facilities simply to receive economic aid from Tokyo, Inoue offers an anthropological explanation, contending that a divided Okinawan identity both increased and disrupted the possibility of a "united front against the U.S.-Japan alliance, thereby helping us explain the puzzle of how and why power has multiplied in the midst of resistance" (p. 9). Inoue focuses his narrative on the simultaneous reification and division of Okinawan identity "against the background of the nation-state (Japan), and the larger process of global history," particularly the global power complex of the U.S. military (p. 208). He posits two variants of Okinawan identity and social consciousness. The first, a pro-base conceptualization of working-class difference, developed throughout the second half of the twentieth century based on the economic and employment benefits provided by the bases. Inoue identifies this pro-base identity of difference under the rubric "We are Okinawans of a different kind" (p. 11). In contrast, he also traces an anti-base middle-class totality of "We are Okinawans," which came to be expressed in the late 1990s. He maintains that in this variant "the perspective of affluent 'citizens' of diverse backgrounds awakened to globally disseminated ideas" about human rights, peace, ecology, and gender (pp. 9, 169). These shimin, or citizens, merged the specificity of the Okinawan experience with broader global processes and encouraged larger socioeconomic strata to participate in anti-base activism. In detailing this contrast, Inoue contends that local identity politics develop partially in response to global processes, highlighting the localized effects of U.S. military power while arguing for the importance of the "marginalized voices of the Other" in understanding globalization (p. 13). Ultimately, the shift from a local identity based in oppression to a globalized Okinawan identity based on citizenship was both successful and limited; Okinawans did come together in new ways, yet Okinawan identity continues to be divided along class lines, a tension that is ongoing at the end of the text. It is this tension, in part, that allows the U.S.-Japan alliance to continue constructing bases in Okinawa. Okinawan identity politics and "micro concerns of social life" thus "challenge as much as reinforce the macro political process of the Japanese nation," a nation that continues to cooperate in a broader U.S.-Japan power dynamic (p. 210).
In exploring this local-national-global dynamic of Okinawan identity formation, Inoue loosely structures the book into three main sections. The first seeks to historicize Okinawan resistance, placing Okinawa in a broader context of violence rendered by both the imperial Japanese state and the U.S. military. Okinawan resistance thus developed against both Japan and the United States. Furthermore, after the reversion of Okinawa to Japan in 1972, Japan acted as a mediator between the United States and Okinawa, exerting not oppressive power but influence through money, which "crystallized, reinforced, and transformed" the relationship between local and global components (p. 65). Inoue also offers a critique of modern Okinawan studies, arguing that it has essentialized a "pure" Okinawa and prevented scholars from exploring the continued shaping and reshaping of Okinawan identity in a national and global context.
The next section explores Inoue's fieldwork site: Henoko, a small coastal town near Nago City in northern Okinawa and host to Camp Schwab since 1957. Examining both Henoko's history and contemporary base-related activism, Inoue places the emergence of the two forms of Okinawan identity--"We are Okinawans of a different kind" and "We are Okinawans"--in the context of economics, kinship, and cultural practice. He contends, for example, that "nondiscursive ties of blood and place" placed specific limits on public discussions about the base issue, particularly through a patriarchal family structure that assimilated and muffled anti-base voices (p. 105). In the aftermath of the 1995 rape incident, however, negotiations over the construction of an offshore base in Henoko opened new political possibilities, resulting in the increased activism of previously stifled groups, particularly women and senior citizens. This anti-base citizen ideology thereby developed not only in response to the U.S. military presence and memories of Japanese behavior in World War II Okinawa, but also in response to oppressions rooted in both kinship and gender (p. 142).
The final section examines the consequences of these two variants of Okinawan identity. Inoue asserts that the "plane of totality ('We are Okinawans')" came to be undermined by the "logic of difference, articulated by working-class Okinawans through their pro-base desires for development, happiness, and a better life" (p. 155). Inoue explores this process through broader Okinawan political debates, particularly a Nago City referendum on the construction of a new base in Henoko. It was through this referendum that Okinawans organized as affluent citizens "awakened to globally disseminated ideas" (p. 157). Tensions within this movement, however, along with its failure to address working-class economic concerns, ultimately undermined this moment of Okinawan resistance. By the 1998 Nago City mayoral election, it was this split in Okinawan identity, rather than Okinawan opposition to the U.S. and Japanese governments, that became the key source of contention, leading to the victory of the pro-base party and its "vision of the local as a bounded, homogeneous, working-class community bonded by nondiscursive ties of blood and place" (p. 201). Inoue closes with a call for what he terms "radical appropriation," suggesting that Okinawans take Tokyo's economic support without offering land for further base construction (p. 213). This "radical appropriation" would benefit Okinawa's economic development and transform Okinawans' desire for better quality of life into a broader anti-base movement built on a shared Okinawan identity.
Inoue's exploration of the development and fragmentation of Okinawan identity rests, in part, on Okinawa's "in-between" position in the U.S.-Japan alliance. Though Okinawa is part of Japan, its independent history, wartime memories, extended U.S. occupation, and high percentage of U.S. military bases contribute to a sense of difference. Inoue thus seeks to articulate a U.S.-Japan model that accounts for Okinawa's separate experiences, particularly oppression through U.S.-Japan cooperation. Rather than utilizing a Foucaultian model of "self" and "other," with the United States as "self" and Japan (including Okinawa) as "other," he draws from Emmanuel Levinas's critique of the "intimate society ... a society of me and you. We are just among ourselves. Third parties are excluded" (p. 26). Inoue uses this intriguing concept of a U.S.-Japan "intimate society," which hints at relationships beyond the state level, throughout the text to highlight the ways in which U.S.-Japan cooperation has created a disproportionate burden on Okinawa. He argues for the need to bring Okinawa in as the suppressed "third person" to articulate the "democratic potentialities of 'oppositional appropriation'" (p. 26). This framework further highlights two crucial themes of the text: the need to see Okinawa as both inside and outside the nation of Japan, and his call for Okinawans to continue their resistance not only to the U.S. military presence, but also to the Japanese government's continued cooperation with this military.
Inoue is particularly effective in drawing out the diversity of concerns and tensions raised by pro-base and anti-base activism in Okinawa. His story is far more complex than opposition to the U.S. military or the Japanese government, though both of these factors play a crucial role. He takes care to situate Okinawan resistance in complex roots that draw from both local community structures and global concerns to demonstrate the difficulty of disentangling local, national, and global components. Local experiences and cultures, even those outside the immediate realm of the bases, became a point of mobilization against global power structures, while broader, globally expressed ideas were simultaneously utilized to articulate local concerns. By drawing out these connections, Inoue is able to articulate two somewhat stable manifestations of Okinawan identity while simultaneously exploring their potential, or lack thereof, for change.
In drawing out these complexities, Inoue's work provides an interesting commentary on conceptions of national sovereignty, which often presume that a state participates globally as a unified entity. Okinawans, however, engaged in global processes across national lines to advocate for their own definition and vision of "Okinawa." In exploring these issues, Inoue's work further demonstrates how concepts like sovereignty are often experienced, articulated, and even shifted through localized parameters. In doing so, he reminds us not only that sovereignty is connected to expressions of identity and community, but also that the nature of sovereignty can change through these conflicts over identity. In essence, the battle over Okinawan identity became a battle over Okinawan sovereignty and vice versa, for through their continued efforts to determine their own national future and the meaning of "Okinawan," Okinawans seek to change the position of Okinawa itself.
In addressing the intricate roots and experiences of Okinawan identity, however, Inoue's analysis occasionally becomes overly crowded. Though Inoue's main points are clearly articulated, the book would have benefited from a more focused structure. In particular, the chapter on modern Okinawan studies, though effective in placing Inoue's work in its historical and intellectual context, disrupts the development of the broader narrative. Moreover, in developing this narrative, Inoue addresses a variety of issues--from community structures to political organizations to the global power of the U.S. military--yet this diversity of focus occasionally overwhelms his main arguments. Inoue's exploration of his own positionality also raises questions. Though this is a crucial issue in the conduct of fieldwork, by placing this issue at the end of the text, Inoue detracts from a story that is, at its heart, about Okinawan identities and experiences. Inoue also makes clear his own participation in the anti-base movement, which is both a strength and a weakness of the text. While his familiarity and relationships with the people involved brings depth, emotion, and nuance to his work, he admits that at times, he "transgress[ed] [his] role as researcher" by helping a key anti-base organization, which "otherwise, perhaps, would not have functioned at all" (p. 189). This close relationship with the anti-base elements of his narrative occasionally eclipses his need to articulate equally both pro- and anti-base strands of Okinawan identity.
In the end, Inoue presents a nuanced discussion of the ways in which questions of identity transcend the local to affect, and be affected by, global processes. Moreover, and perhaps most important, he succeeds in making this exploration concrete, in examining how articulations of Okinawan identity proscribed political choices in Okinawa and even within the broader U.S.-Japan relationship. Ultimately, the global reach of the U.S. military gives rise to responses far beyond anti-Americanism or antimilitarism, participating in a nuanced dynamic that addresses economic opportunity, gender relationships, class understandings, and broader national questionings. For anthropologists, historians, and social scientists, Inoue offers an intriguing examination of the complex strands, relationships, and consequences of the processes of globalization.
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Jennifer Miller. Review of Inoue, Masamichi S., Okinawa and the U.S. Military: Identity Making in the Age of Globalization.
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