Theorizing “Empire” and World Order in the Ethnography of China’s Geopolitical Edges [Part 2]
2: Extra-ordinary Everyday Life and the Bases of Empire in Japan
Saturday, March 26, 2022
12:30pm – 2:00pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, United States
Since the end of the Second World War, the US has developed a complex network of military bases around the world, most of which are located in other countries’ territories. From these overseas military bases, the US can project power without direct colonization. Therefore, the following labels have been used to describe the US empire: "informal, invisible, benevolent, or base" empire. All these labels show an attempt to reconfigure the conventional definition of empire represented by former European empires. This paper focuses on the US military bases and their surrounding areas in Japan, home to more American military personnel than any other country in the world besides the US. Their presence today is often justified by the continued rise of China. These bases' surroundings, namely the borderlands that buffer military bases from the rest of the country, are the volatile spaces where communities encounter material and social extensions of war, such as criminality, health disparities, environmental pollution, prejudice, and discrimination. This paper examines the precarious condition in which local residents are subject to decisions and actions made by non-citizens, where security versus danger and peace versus war coexist. Seemingly contradictory events like anti-US base protests and base-community friendship events illustrate the ongoing everyday life of the communities that live alongside US military bases overseas. By looking at what I call the 'extra-ordinary everyday life' of the people living near American bases, this paper questions the perceived features of imperial forms and rethinks what empire is.