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In Session: Japan's Postwar: Politics of the Outside
Unauthorized Local Media Practices and the Paradox of Cold War Democracy in U.S.-Occupied Hokkaido
Monday, March 22, 2021
10:00am – 11:30am EDT
Ji Hee Jung
Seoul National University, Republic of Korea
In U.S. occupied Japan, a number of rural communities autonomously developed wired broadcasting networks to tailor the standardized mode of radio reception to the needs of disadvantaged and remote rural communities or fringe areas. Some regions used the networks not only for radio listening but also for independently programmed local broadcasting and intra-village communications. This grassroots media practice has often been assumed as a product of the occupation’s democratization program. Analysing previously unused materials such as internal reports and memoranda from Hokkaido Civil Affairs and surveys, however, my study suggests that this was an “unauthorized” local appropriation of broadcasting; surprisingly, it remained beyond the occupation’s grasp for several years, until its rapid growth in Hokkaido and the suspicion of leftist influences panicked the U.S. occupation forces into belated investigation and regulatory action around the time of the Korean War’s outbreak. I propose considering the fuss around the collective listening practice (kyōdō chōshu) not as an isolated occurrence but as a telling signifier of the limit of the occupation’s penetrating power into local communities and the occupation forces’ inability to handle the agency of the occupied unaffected by the much-publicized postwar reorientation program. In so doing, I problematize both the Japanese neo-nationalist representation of occupied Japan as a “closed discursive space” and the rather narrow boundaries of democracy defined by the U.S. occupation authorities in the emerging Cold War.