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De/Re-militarizing the Pacific Island: Post-/Colonial Manifestations of Geopolitical Forces in Okinawa, Japan

Authors: Takashi Yamazaki*, Osaka City University
Topics: Political Geography, Indigenous Peoples, Asia
Keywords: militarization, post-colonialism, geopolitics, Pacific islands, Okinawa
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The US has built a large number of military bases (outposts) on Pacific islands such as Hawaii, Guam, and Okinawa to secure the forward deployment of its military forces and maintain its global sphere of influence until today. The long stationing of US forces on those islands has had political, economic, cultural, and environmental impacts on indigenous island societies. Due to their insularity, such impacts can entirely transform/militarize the societies. The processes of transformation are manifold, including physical (land confiscation and base construction), political (military rule and a split in local politics), economic (integration into “base economy”), and cultural transformations (the Americanization of local life). Focusing on the intertwining processes of militarization, this paper explores how such processes have unfolded in Okinawa since 1945. Processes of militarization cannot be separated from those of de-militarization such as local protest and national and local initiatives for base reduction. The de-militarization of Okinawa has not only been an important agenda for the US and Japan but also conditioned by their geopolitical visions of East Asia. Currently the Japanese government is promoting both de-militarization and re-militarization as a dual response to on-going local protest and the imperative of the Japan-US alliance. This duality of militarization manifests itself geographically within Okinawa. By analyzing (de-)militarized landscapes and practices, anti-base protest, and representations of place-based memories, this paper illuminates how the duality has been transforming Okinawa into a space where multi-scalar forces intersect, conflict, and merge.

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