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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Demarcating Fences: Power, Settler-Militarism, and the Carving of Urban Futenma

  • Author(s): Caldwell, Ethan
  • et al.

The following images highlight how the chain linked fence surrounding military installations represent power, surveillance, and verticality. By day, community members of the densely populated Ginowan-shi in Okinawa claim space on the land in front of an entrance to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma, with protest signs visible to all U.S. service members and Okinawan-civilian contractors of the injustice present from the settler-military force. By night, the focus shifts to an unforeseen U.S. military intervention, in conjunction with Okinawan law enforcement and construction workers, to quell the protests by reoccupying the sidewalk, pushing protesters further from the gates of the contentious site and attempting to contain their efforts away from the base.


This series illustrates how the fence is used to reconfigure base boundaries. The fence demarcates a line between a suburban, America-occupied space and an urban, racialized and indigenous other, where colonially derived forms of surveillance render their bodies visible. It represents a wake, a marker of settler-militarism that reproduces conditions of containment, regulation, punishment, and occupation. As a wake, it also masks the settler-soldiers who occupy the space within, while instead making Okinawans on both sides of the fence visible towards the maintenance and justification of the military presence. This reaffirms the impact of settler-militarism on either side of the fence: by community members who choose to engage with and protest against the occupying force and the dangers of their presence, while in constant negotiation of individuals who affirm their necessity as a form of economic stability and security. The images also highlight the limits of the fence and gesture to its role in the projection of settler-militaristic power vertically. While the fence is temporarily rooted in the occupied land, the aircraft operating from MCAS Futenma project a power that has detrimental effects to the security of the land and people around the base Although they are not present from these specific images, the notions are ever-present in the protest imagery, the history of U.S. military incidents in Okinawa, and the deafening sound that lingers throughout the day and night around these occupied spaces of American influence.

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