Vernacular Okinawa : identity and ideology in contemporary local activism
Demand for equal rights tends to be accompanied by assimilation of ethnic subordinates while the recognition of their separate identity is liable to justify unfair segregation. When an ethnic minority is aware of this dilemma, what identity are they to claim and what ideology do they present? By looking at contemporary local activism in Okinawa, Japan, this dissertation tries to give an empirical answer to this question. In Okinawans' historical experience, both their sameness as and difference from the Japanese turned out to be disadvantageous for the people. Local activists can support neither their Japanese identity nor Okinawan identity. As a result, although they struggled against the central power of the state, their activism can not be fully embraced within the category of multiculturalist movements. The body of this dissertation consists of a historical reconstruction of citizens' movements and a sociological analysis of activists' discourse on Okinawa-Japan relations. The ethnography focuses on a particular generation of educated local people, who form the mainstream of local activists in post-reversion Okinawa, and tries to illuminate what impact the reversion movement had on them and how it shaped their thought and actions thereafter. Chapter 1 describes the way in which Okinawan intellectuals re-contextualise obsolete religious tradition into their environmentalist or pacifist movements. Chapter 2 addresses the moral ambiguity of modern collective identities and demonstrates, with the Japanese as an example, that moral values change depending on transient international power relations. Chapter 3 focuses on the empirical historical context, the reversion movement, in which a category of Okinawan intellectuals realised this moral ambiguity. Chapter 4 examines an expression of regional identity, the Ryukyuan Arc, by which Okinawan activists tried to overcome the principle of modern social collectivity. Chapter 5 discusses how Okinawans' perception has historically changed in regard to their position in Japanese society.