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Autonomous Tokyo: Geographies of Dissent and Desire

  • Author(s): Bender, Catherine Tsukasa
  • Advisor(s): Sheppard, Eric S
  • Leitner, Helga M
  • et al.
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Abstract

Autonomous Tokyo is an assemblage of locally embedded activists and spaces that is credited with starting the anti-nuclear movement in Japan after the triple disaster of 3.11. Since then, their work has focused on building transnational connections and solidarity. Given that we inhabit a dominant geopolitical and ecological landscape that promotes individualist and ethnic nationalist understandings of security and scarcity, there is an urgency to understanding how social movements cultivate political will, particularly across national boundaries. The literature on social movements is dominated by largely instrumentalist, state-centric perspectives. These center a limiting view of politics that make some movements, like the post-3.11 anti-nuclear movement, appear to arise out of nowhere. It also devalues the significance of the majority of social movements because according to a metric of state policy transformation, they could be classified as failures. This dissertation, based on an ethnographic study of a radical movement geography based mainly in Japan, contributes to this literature in three ways. In the first chapter, I highlight the importance of alternative place-based politics that seek to primarily subvert, rather than confront, the state, and show how grappling with the contradictions of autonomous/anarchist praxis is a political process that enlivens radical possibilities. The second chapter unpacks the gendered dynamics of their radical politics by interrogating the role of emotion and affect in digital spaces. The third chapter analyzes how the dominant global racial regime of whiteness is intertwined with Japanese supremacy to consider how an activist vision of “Asian” political subjectivity suggests some possibilities of transnational solidarity and the impossibilities of "color-blind" anti-capitalism.

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This item is under embargo until November 7, 2021.