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In Session: Pacifism, Human Rights, Popular Movement, and “History Activism”: The “Postwar” as a Transnational Space
4: Connecting the Cold War Island and the Third World: The "Okinawa Problem" and Japanese Lawyers' Human Rights Activism in 1955
Monday, March 22, 2021
10:00am – 11:30am EDT
Boston College, United States
This presentation places the Japan Civil Liberties Union’s investigative report “Human Rights Problems in Okinawa” at the center of a transnational moment in 1955 that brought the ideological contradictions of U.S. Cold War policy to broad public attention. Written by a group of Japanese lawyers concerned about the grave violations of fundamental human rights in Okinawa and extensively covered in the Asahi Shimbun, it set in motion a transnational awakening to U.S. human rights violations that resonated not only with nationalism and neutralism in Japan but also with demands for self-determination articulated by Asian and African lawyers who the Asian Jurists Conference in Calcutta the same year. It built momentum for Okinawa’s first island-wide human rights rally calling for the application of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights even under U.S. military rule. The paper shows how a cascade of events surrounding the 1955 JCLU report reframed Japan’s “postwar” in spatial terms by making Okinawa a bridge to the emerging Third World in Asia. It also demonstrates how the diverse grassroots actors’ solidarity activism exposed the racial and legal inequities created by the postwar U.S. national security state projecting hegemonic military power in Asia.