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Project Fukushima! Performativity and the Politics of Festival in Post-3/11 Japan


This article describes the political performances of the annual Project Fukushima! festival that—only a few months after the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster on 3/11/11, and each summer since—has brought thousands to sing, dance, and make music in Fukushima City. Why celebrate Fukushima in the midst of a meltdown? I argue that performance has taken on a vital critical dimension in the ambivalent pluralism that drives contemporary public protest movements. Music and dance— particularly in the festivals that have become deeply integrated into social activism in post-3/11 Japan—have become particularly expedient ways to enable broad critiques of technocultural capitalism and its silencing of marginal populations. The performativity of festival connotes but does not necessarily constitute public dialogue. Rather, it makes audible the dissonance of diverse political assemblies, who respond with ambivalence to demands to speak with a singular voice. I examine the ways in which the anthropology of social movements can attend to new performative assemblies that reframe narratives of disaster and displacement to describe emergent scenes of embodied interdependence in a global politics of survival. By blurring the lines between social expression and the disruptive noise of collective spectacle, Project Fukushima! builds the ambivalence of regional culture into a platform for amplifying the noise of political community in the disaster zone.

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