AlegalBiopolitics and the Unintelligibility of Okinawan Life

AlegalBiopolitics and the Unintelligibility of Okinawan Life

Annmaria M. Shimabuku

Print publication date: 2019

ISBN: 9780823282661

Publisher: Fordham University Press


Alegal reveals modern Okinawa to be suspended in a perpetual state of exception: it is neither an official colony of Japan or the U.S., nor an equal part of the Japanese state. Today it is the site of one of the densest concentrations of U.S. military bases globally—a truly exceptional condition stemming from Japan’s abhorrence toward sexual contact around bases in its mainland that factored into securing Okinawa as a U.S. military fortress. This book merges Foucauldian biopolitics with Japanese Marxist theorizations of capitalism to trace the formation of a Japanese middle class that disciplined and secured the population from perceived threats, including the threat of miscegenation. Through close readings of poetry, reportage, film, and autobiography, it reveals how this threat came to symbolize the infringement of Japanese sovereignty figured in terms of a patriarchal monoethnic state. This symbolism, however, was met with great ambivalence in Okinawa. As a borderland of the Pacific, racial politics internal to the U.S. collided with colonial politics internal to the Asia Pacific in base towns centered on facilitating encounters between G.I.s and Okinawan women. By examining the history, debates, and cultural representations of these actors from 1945 to 2015, this book shows how they continually failed to “become Japanese.” Instead, they epitomized Okinawa’s volatility that danced on the razor’s edge between anarchistic insurgency and fascistic collaboration. What was at stake in their securitization was the attempt to contain Okinawa’s alegality itself—that is, a life force irreducible to the law.