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In Session: On the Concept of “Positionality” in Japan: A Sociological Analysis of Power, Social Interaction, and Common Intelligibility
3: Positionality between Okinawas and Japanese on the Discriminatory Issue of US military Bases in Okinawa
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Okinawa International University, Japan
This paper addresses differences in the positionality between Okinawans and Japanese based on data from a quantitative survey conducted in 2019. It focuses on the problem of discrimination made manifest by the unequal concentration of US military bases in Okinawa as compared to the rest of the Japanese state. This is contextualized by the grassroots movement that has exploded in recent years to relocate US military bases in Okinawa to other areas in Japan. This paper carefully analyzes different perceptions and receptions of these movements.
Historically, Okinawa was annexed by the Japanese state in 1879. Currently, 70% of US military bases in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa, which only makes up 0.6% of total land mass in the Japanese state. In other words, the relationship between Okinawa and Japan is rooted in colonial relations. Therefore, this paper argues that the relationship between Okinawans and Japanese cannot be simply reduced to a national political issue within Japan, but current-day discrimination is manifested in the everyday attitude towards military bases. In particular, this paper argues that Okinawans view these problems as structural discrimination by the Japanese people.
The 2019 quantitative survey corroborates these hypotheses. In particular, Okinawans tend to perceive the base problem as discrimination from Japan. In addition, Okinawans tend to positively evaluate the grassroots movement to relocate US military bases to other areas in Japan. However, these results differ depending on age category and gender.