Follow the Yellowcake Road: A Journey from Tokyo to Mirrar Country

On 19 July 2019 I boarded a plane in Tokyo and headed to Cairns for two weeks of fieldwork connected with my research on transnational activism in the Asia-Pacific. My purpose was to learn about the pathways via which uranium travels from Australia to Japan and the resistance movements and grassroots connections which have formed along the way. Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Australia supplied approximately one third of Japan’s uranium needs, something I first became aware of when anti-nuclear activists from Australia came to Japan in 2012 for the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World. Since that time I have pondered the nature of the nuclear relationship between my birthplace and my second home in Japan. After delving into the history of this relationship from my dusty office in Tokyo, it was time to make the physical journey along the yellowcake road and see where it might take me.

In Cairns I met with local Japanese-Australian people who organise Smile with Kids, a registered charity which brings junior high school students from Fukushima prefecture whose lives have been disrupted in multiple ways by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster for a ten-day visit to Cairns. The children’s visit happened to coincide with a visit to the city by Peace Boat, a cruise ship with a difference which holds peace and sustainable development education activities onboard during its global and regional voyages.

Peace Boat at Cairns Dock

The ship is part of an NGO which campaigns around these issues and has played a significant role in fighting nuclear power in post-Fukushima Japan. Local activists took advantage of this fortuitous timing to organise a welcome event for Peace Boat passengers and staff at which the Fukushima children spoke about their experiences growing up in the wake of the nuclear disaster.

Student from Fukushima Addressing the Welcome Event in Cairns

In Cairns the children stay with local homestay families and take part in an extensive educational programme. One day I accompanied them on a visit to the Cairns cenotaph, where a Cairns-based Japanese man gave a short talk on Australian’s war history and its conflict with Japan in the Second World War. The following day they went to Spring Dew Farm, an organic farm located in the Atherton Tablelands which practices natural farming methods. The farmer is a Japanese-Australian man who took part in an eight-month walk across Australia and Japan in 2003 and 2004 visiting uranium mines and nuclear installations in protest at the devastation wrought by the nuclear industry and in an effort to connect movements and memories in the two countries. After the children had prepared a meal using vegetables they had freshly-harvested from the farm, he spoke to them about the walk.

Students learn about organic farming at Spring Dew Farm

In Canberra I dove into the archives to unearth the history of anti-nuclear resistance in Australia and the ways it has been entwined with Japan’s nuclear energy needs and with anti-nuclear social movements. I wanted to see how witnesses testifying before the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry between 1975 and 1977 understood the geography of the proposed Ranger uranium mine intended to be built in the Alligator Rivers region east of Darwin. The results of my research confirmed what other sources had suggested: uranium mining advocates made much of anticipated demand from Japan to justify their desire to mine while anti-nuclear activists pointed to growing anti-nuclear sentiment there. Connections between movements in the two countries were still embryonic at that time but I found some evidence that connections were already forming which would later develop more fully in subsequent waves of anti-nuclear activism.

Transcripts from the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry

In Darwin I developed an understanding of how uranium mining for the Japanese market fits into the broad sweep of Northern Territory history, its imbrication with Asia and the white man’s ongoing search for a quick buck at the expense of Aboriginal land rights. A local activist took me out to Kakadu where I was privileged to meet briefly with Yvonne Margarula, Senior Traditional Owner of the Mirrar people. I then spent two hours talking with staff at the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, the body established by the Mirrar to manage their royalties from the Ranger uranium mine and maintain ‘a balance between sustainable development, traditional practice and living culture on their land’. Here I learned about the centrality of the Japanese uranium market to the Ranger uranium mine and to the Mirrar’s own understanding of their struggle. We finished the day with a drive past the Ranger mine, where I peered into the deep hole created by the now defunct mine. The hole is now being filled with tailings from the storage dam as part of the clean-up effort. Thanks to the long Indigenous-led struggle, signs are good that Ranger will be cleaned up to a high standard.

Entrance to the Ranger Mine

I concluded my trip by attending the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) conference in Darwin. This organisation is made up of a patchwork of groups who are working to maintain and rebuild the struggle for peace across Australia and the region. The network was established in response to the US pivot to Asia and Australia’s role in this, such as via the establishment of a permanent ‘rotation’ of US marines in Darwin. The diverse currents of the peace movement represented at the conference included everything from Christian groups to former diplomats and academics to the Maritime Union of Australia, a Greens senator, local Indigenous elders and many others, all infused with an anti-racist and internationalist outlook.

Robin Taubenfeld addresses the IPAN conference

Amidst all of this diversity it might seem difficult to find the common, but at our protest action outside the Darwin military base where 2500 US troops are now permanently ‘rotated’ I was reminded that praxis can often provide a way to resolve contradictions between people with differing perspectives.

IPAN protest outside Robertson Barracks, Darwin

A series of fortuitous timings structured my trip, giving me a lesson in the importance of chance, synchronicity and goodwill when conducting fieldwork in unfamiliar terrain. I had a basic plan and some contacts in each port of call, but I still had concerns about whether I would find the story I wanted to tell. As I followed the yellowcake road, however, I uncovered a rich tapestry of people, places and things which weave Australia and Japan together in the atomic age and gained just the inspiration I needed to tell the story of the way uranium mining and the quest for energy resources have connected our two island nations in the nuclear age.

A Month for Remembering Nuclear Harms

The worst thing in 1954 was the Bikini

See the girl on TV dressed in a Bikini

She doesn’t think so but she’s dressed for the H-bomb

‘I Found That Essence Rare’, Gang of Four

This month marked eight years since the Great East Japan Earthquake triggered a tsunami and a major nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Anniversaries such as this one provoke considerable reflection. Coverage of the anniversary in the Japan Times focused on the Abe government’s problematic promotion of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as the ‘Recovery Games’ while most residents in the Tōhoku region of northeast Japan, where most of the damage was done, feel a palpable lack of progress on recovery. A few days earlier the newspaper reported on the ongoing crisis of waste water management at the ruined plant. Every day tonnes of groundwater water flow into the site where it mixes with the water that is used for cooling the damaged reactor cores and becomes contaminated . After filtration, this contaminated water is stored in large tanks on site but with no end in sight the issue of what is to be done with this waste water remains unresolved. The leading idea for how to deal with it once storage runs out: flush it into the sea.

Of course, huge quantities of radioactive water have already been released into the Pacific Ocean since the disaster. It is worth remembering in this context the other important anniversary that took place in the Pacific on 1 March 65 years ago when the United States began conducting a major round of nuclear bomb tests, codenamed Operation Castle, over Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The Bikini tests were intended to demonstrate the United States’ nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union. However, the Japanese tuna fishing trawler Daigo Fukuryū Maru (Lucky Dragon No 5) was caught in the fallout from the tests despite being outside the designated fallout zone.

Daigo Fukuryū Maru (Lucky Dragon No 5)

Upon returning to its home port of Yaizu, the trawler’s crew were hospitalised with symptoms of acute radiation poisoning. The radio operator subsequently died and fears of radioactive tuna spread throughout Japan. In September a nation-wide petition drive against atomic and hydrogen bombs was initiated by the fishmongers of Suginami in central Tokyo. By August the following year the petition had garnered more than 20 million signatures and is often credited with laying the ground for subsequent citizen movements against the renewal of the US-Japan Security Treat (Anpo) in 1960.

This year memorial events for the Bikini incident were held in the port of Yaizu and in Tokyo, where the fishing trawler is preserved at the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall. Activists from the museum organised a special screening programme of films related to the incident. The headliner for these screenings was Day of the Western Sunrise, a new film by Daliborka Films that features interviews with three of the survivors from the ship.

Day of the Western Sunrise Documentary Teaser Trailer from DALIBORKAfilms on Vimeo.

I attended another related event on Wednesday 27 February at the Tokyo headquarters of Peace Boat, a Japan-based Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) which is active in contemporary movements against nuclear weapons and nuclear power and for peace and social justice. Last year the organisation’s flagship cruise liner conducted the Making Waves tour, which visited five ports around Australia with a group of nuclear survivors from Japan and Australia. Nuclear survivors are known in Japanese as hibakuasha. At each port the group gave public talks and took part in protest actions in support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Making Waves banner
Making Waves, ICAN

On Wednesday night in Tokyo, a weekly study group meeting heard from Okamura Keisuke, a photographer and activist with the Pacific Nuclear Disaster Assistance Center (太平洋核被災支援センター) in Kōchi prefecture in the south-western island of Kyushu. Okamura has recently published a photo book which highlights a little-known aspect of the Bikini nuclear tests.

While the irradiation of the Lucky Dragon during the Bikini tests is quite widely known in Japan and around the world, Okamura revealed that there were actually more than 1,000 Japanese fishing trawlers in the Bikini area during the bomb tests. A large numbers of fishermen on these boats were subject to irradiation. The book, No Nukes: Never Forget the Bikini Atoll Nuclear Tests features photographs of some of the survivors, rural fisherfolk who remained silent about their experiences until the 1980s.

Local high school students in Kōchi discovered this large hidden hibakusha community when they interviewed local older people for a school project in 1985. As awareness about the existence of this group of hibakusha grew, more people became involved including radiation health scientists who were able to calculate accurately the radiation doses received by the fishermen through studying their teeth. These investigations revealed that some of these fishermen experience dose-rates comparable to those experienced by people in Hiroshima who were located 1.5 km from the epicentre of the explosion.

When initial reports of the Kōchi hibakusha surfaced, the Japanese government denied any knowledge of the incident. However, subsequent research and legal action led to the discovery of extensive records of the incident and of a government cover-up that occurred at the time in collusion with the United States. Now older and no longer cowed by the poverty and fear that kept them silent in the early 1950s, the survivors have launched legal action to bring their experiences to light. In July 2018 the Kōchi District Court rejected the former fishermen’s claim for damages arising from the Japanese state’s complicity in hiding key records of the Bikini tests. Nevertheless, the judgement did acknowledge that the fishermen had been exposed to radiation from the Bikini tests – the first official acknowledgement that vessels other than the Lucky Dragon No 5 were involved. Okamura highlighted the role of a group of scientists in the cover-up who were former members of the infamous Imperial Japanese Army Unit 731 who conducted biological and chemical warfare experiments on human beings in Japanese-occupied Manchuria and were later rehabilitated, with the complicity of the American Occupation authorities, after the war.

As Okamura brought his talk to a close, he discussed the wider implications of the Bikini incident and subsequent cover-up for the establishment of Japan’s nuclear power programme in the 1950s. In general, anti-nuclear activists recognise a strong connection between the military and civilian uses of nuclear power. The civilian technology is military in origin and critics often point to the fact that nuclear power generation produces plutonium, increasing the risk of nuclear proliferation. Okamura outlined the way the US and Japanese government complicity in the cover-up of Bikini led directly to the subsequent attempt to reframe civilian nuclear technology as a kind of ‘swords into ploughshares’. He described the way propaganda efforts in favour of nuclear power were ramped up significantly in the wake of the Bikini incident through the newspaper and television empire of rehabilitated war criminal and CIA collaborator Shōriki Mastutarō as well as the 1956 Atoms for Peace exhibitions held to promote nuclear technology’s peaceful use in a war-weary Japan. These exhibitions were attended by thousands of people at a time when mass consumer culture was just starting to take off as Japan’s economy recovered from the devastation of war.

Japan and Australia have both refused to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons advocated for by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning advocacy group the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

ICAN logo

In justifying their opposition to the treaty, both governments cite their defence relationship with the United States, the only country to have dropped a nuclear bomb on another during wartime. Okamura’s talk not only highlighted the struggle of an ageing group of rural hibakusha to have the truth of their irradiation recognised publicly but connected their struggle with the alliances forged between government and military figures in Japan and the United States in the aftermath of the Asia-Pacific war in order to maintain US hegemony in Asia. The failure of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to negotiate an end to the ongoing state of war on the Korean peninsula only highlights the way the Cold War structures of militarism in East Asia stand in the way of the peace and reconciliation that might enable the Asia-Pacific war to truly come to a close. In the meantime, grassroots activists like Okamura and the hibakusha survivors of nuclear harms will continue to be the real diplomats, patiently doing the work of peace and bringing to light the hidden harms of the US-Japan relationship.

Welcome to Our First Podcast!

Melanie and I are excited to announce the launch of the very first episode of the Love From Tokyo podcast, aptly titled ‘Class Power is Built from Love’. Like the blog, this podcast focuses on politics and activism in Tokyo and the wider region. It’s a project that Melanie and I have been dreaming up since we first started talking about coming to Tokyo and is inspired by some of the new wave of radical podcasts we have been listening to over the past couple of years such as Living the Dream, Novara Media and Floodcast. You can listen to the podcast here or via iTunes and Stitcher.

For this first episode we took the opportunity to interview our dear friend Nick Southall who was in Tokyo last month for the Love as Politics seminar at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. This symposium was the capstone for a four-year JSPS-funded research project on ‘The Lived Experience of Anarchist Culture: The Making of Autonomous Space and Subsistence [生きられたアナーキズムの文化実践:自律空間の創出とサブシステンス]’ (Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C), Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, 15K03872) that involved members of an Autonomism reading group formed in Kunitachi in 2012. In his talk at the symposium, Nick addressed the importance of care in social movements and argued that love is increasingly being recognised as key to building alternatives to capitalist power. In the podcast, we asked him to expand on his use of the term love. We then talk extensively about love, and its lack, on the political left and how love can serve as the basis for building class power.

The project is the work of a fairly informal network of researchers and activists that first started to come together around the G8 summit in Hokkaido in 2008. We held our first conference in Wollongong in 2010 under the title From Empire to Commonwealth: Communist Theory and Contemporary Praxis. When I was in Japan between 2011 and 2013 a group of participants in that conference and other local activists and researchers started a reading group on Sylvia Federici’s book Caliban and the Witch (Autonomedia, 2004), an alternative history of capitalist modernity that emphasises the role of the witch hunts in the destruction of pre-modern forms of autonomous community and women’s power both in Europe and the colonies. These discussions coalesced around a second conference, Crisis and Commons: Prefigurative Politics After Fukushima where we considered autonomist perspectives on the Fukushima nuclear disaster and other struggles in a world of deepening crisis. One of the reading group members, Odawara Rin, subsequently translated Federici’s book into Japanese.

My talk at the symposium was an attempt to summarise and theorise the experience of a series of events I have been involved in organising in Wollongong that we call Love: Art, Ideas, Music, Politics (my talk is available here and in Japanese translation here). Some readers of this blog will have attended one of these events at Minto Bush Camp in 2014 or at Kum Ba Yah Girl Guide Camp in 2017. These events, which we refer to more casually as ‘love festivals’ were themselves the outgrowth of an earlier reading group on love that started in 2013 in direct response to the above mentioned 2012 symposium at TUFS. Stay tuned for the Love: Art, Ideas, Music, Politics book, which we hope to publish in 2020.

The full text of Nick’s talk is available here ( and in Japanese translation here). You can also read more of his work on his blog, Revolts Now. In 2016 I interviewed Nick about his experience growing up in the Communist Party of Australia. The interview is available at The Word From Struggle Street(part 1, part 2, part 3).





まずは本日の企画者と参加者の皆様にお礼を申し上げます。オートノミーの理論と実践に関心を持ち、2010年11月にウーロンゴン大学の第一回目のシンポジウムに集まったアクティビストと研究者による緩やかなネットワークが生まれてから、10年近く過ぎた。日本とオーストラリアを中心とするわたしたちのネットワークは、ヨーロッパやインドネシア、中国に拠点を置く同志たちを含んで拡大してきた。それは、この間わたしたちがお互いの家に滞在し、食事や悲しみや抗議や喜びを共有してきた、コスモポリタンな人生の旅路を含んでいる。わたしたちの小さなネットワークと、相互扶助とケアの実践についてわたしは言及している。どうしてかというと、それは今日の話のテーマであるラブ・フェスティバルとは、社会生活の現代的形態はプレカリアスである一方、それはまた緩やかで重なり合うネットワークによって構築され支援されている、という理解のもとに着想された政治的プロジェクトだからである。ニックは「連帯チーム(solidarity teams)」という考えを「お互いをケアし、そして、それぞれが社会にポシティヴな影響を及ぼそうとする努力の価値を認め合う人々のグループ」と定義して言及している。これらのグループは、例えば家族や友人のつながりに基づいているものや、共通の利害、経験、政治的取り組みに基づいている場合もある。わたしたちが作ってきたこの小さなリサーチ・ネットワークはこうした「連帯チーム」の一例として考えうると、わたしは示唆したい。それが確かにそうであることは、わたし自身の人生が証明している。自分自身を脱し、乗り越えていく、社会的・政治的領域における関与のみならず、顕著な個人的な成長を促すものとして。




2010年と2012年に開催された二つのシンポジウムから部分的にインスパイアされ、しかし、アカデミックな厳格さを打ち破り、多様な愛の文化的実践の共有地点を見つける交差点を創造することを求める。このフェスティバルは昨今のグローバルなフェミニズム運動の再興、グローバルな平等な愛のキャンペーン、ウーロンゴン大学で行われている「愛を読む読書会 (以下ラブ読書会)」にもインスパイアされている。















The Wollongong Love Festival: An Experimental Politics

Alexander Brown

The following is the text of a talk given at the symposium on Love as Politics at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies on Saturday 16 February, 2019. The talk is available in Japanese translation here.


I would like to begin by thanking my fellow organisers of today’s event and everybody who has joined us for coming along. Nearly ten years have passed since this loose network of activists and researchers, who share an interest in the theory and practice of autonomy, gathered for our first conference at the University of Wollongong in November 2010. Our network, which is centred on Japan and Australia, has expanded to include comrades based in Europe, Indonesia and China. It has incorporated the cosmopolitan life journeys many of us have taken during this time as we stayed in one another’s homes and shared meals and misery, protest and joy.

I mention our little network and our practices of mutual aid and care because the love festival, which is the topic of today’s talk, is a political project that was conceived on the understanding that while contemporary forms of social life are precarious, they are also structured and supported by loose, overlapping networks of social solidarity. Nick referred to the notion of solidarity teams, a notion that he defined as: ‘groups of people who care for each other and acknowledge the value of each other’s efforts to make positive impacts on society’. These groups might be based on family or friendship links or on common interests, experiences and political commitments. I would suggest that the little research network that we have formed can be thought of as an example of such a solidarity team. In my own life it has certainly proved to be so – facilitating both significant personal growth as well as involvement in social and political realms that have taken me out of and beyond myself.

Background to the Love Festival

The story of the love festival begins, in some ways, in this room when our research group gathered for a previous conference titled Crisis and Commons in December 2012. This symposium was a proud moment for me personally and one that I feel demonstrated the strength of our transnational solidarity team. The impact of that event, while difficult to measure, has reverberated over the years through our network. For two of the Australian participants, for example, it played some role in their decision to move to China for nearly two years where they made contact with local activists and took part in a project to translate autonomist texts into Chinese. For me personally it influenced my decision to return to Japan with my family late last year; a move facilitated by the support of members of this research group. The conference was also, however, an exhausting experience and one where I felt the formal trappings of academia inhibited the provision of care for self and others. More than one of us barely slept during the weekend of the event itself as we struggled to prepare academic performances that would be worthy of the event. Theory dominated much of our discussions and I was once again reminded of the significant barriers that exist to participation in academic spaces such as this.

Following the 2012 symposium I discussed with Nick the possibility of collaborating on a different kind of venture where we could jettison the trappings of academia in favour of a fun, festive environment. I hoped that this event would encapsulate much of the politics and practice I had observed at work in the anti-nuclear movement and in the broader social movement scene in Tokyo. One of the highlights of the 2012 conference, for example, was the delicious meals we enjoyed thanks to a young Swiss activist who was at that time living with me and Taku. The conversations we shared over his food and the kindness he put into it helped inspire the central role food would play at the Wollongong love festivals. The original call-out for the event summarises this background as follows:

Inspired in part by two conferences held in 2010 and 2012 but seeking to break out of academic strictures and create an intersection wherein a variety of cultural practices of love might find common ground. The festival is also inspired by the recent upsurge of the global feminist movement, the global campaign for equal love and the Reading Love reading group taking place at Wollongong University.

Love: Art, Ideas, Music, Politics

The first step in the process of organising the love festival was to think more about the politics of love. Nick and I therefore adopted a tried and true method: we convened a reading group. The reading group seems to be a perfect format for the development of solidarity teams. In my political and intellectual life, reading groups have often played a key role in enabling me to experiment with new ideas and develop new relationships. The first major political grouping in which I was involved, a small activist collective in Wollongong called Revolutionary Action, started with a reading group with Nick and our friend Dave, who presented here in 2012. The research group behind today’s seminar, too, is the product of reading groups in both Australia and Japan.

When we started the love reading group in 2013 we straight away noticed that something was different. First, the gendered composition of the group was more balanced. After having been involved in many highly theoretical reading groups over the years that were overwhelmingly male dominated, this was very welcome. I felt this pointed to something about the gendered politics of academic theory and how easily even radical theory tends to privilege the perspectives of highly educated men. Second, the group was better able to attract people who were not academics or students. Third, the discussions in the group blended the personal and the political in important ways. The love reading group was largely made up of people I already knew but it helped create a new collective, a sense of common purpose that eventually coalesced into a plan to organise the love festival, where the ideas that we were discussing in the reading group could be put into practice. We aimed at a fully embodied exploration of love in action, proposing in the original call-out for the event that:

The festival might be thought of as a temporary ‘commune’ based on a love ethic in which everybody is encouraged to look out for one another, pitch in with food preparation, childcare, cleaning and helping ensure everything runs smoothly.

Putting this idea into practice took nearly a year of planning before the first festival took place in April 2014. It was held at Minto Bush Camp, a property in western Sydney that once served as a retreat centre for the Communist Party of Australia. Ultimately we decided to call the event Love: Art, Ideas, Music, Politics. The event attracted approximately 70 people over two days, many of whom stayed on-site in cabins and tents. The positive feedback we received about the event motivated the organising collective to reconvene once more in 2016 to begin preparations for a second love festival. The second event was similar to the first but this time we held it closer to home at the Kum-Ba-Yah Camp, a Girl Guides camp nestled in the foothills Mt Keira in Wollongong. We also decided to organise a more ambitious three-day schedule and to hold a lantern parade for which we prepared with separate public workshops in the lead-up to the festival. Our increased experience and grander ambitions for the second festival were repaid when more than 100 people took part over the course of the event.

The formal event programme was based mainly on workshops in which we asked facilitators to maximise the participation of all of the attendees. The subjects of these workshops were diverse. We encouraged both discussion-based workshops and workshops that engaged people in creative practices. At the 2017 love festival, for example, creative workshops included explorations of love through singing, creative writing and dance. Discussion-based workshops looked at topics such as compassion, protecting oneself from abuse, love sex and democracy, death, the politics of love, men in love, permaculture and love of the earth and the question ‘What is love?’. We issued an open-call for workshop presenters through our networks but we also invited many individuals whom we thought might connect the festival with their solidarity teams and communities and thereby facilitate wider participation. Another important part of the formal programme was the provision for all-in sessions at the beginning and end of the event so that potential strangers could get to know one another better to further facilitate participation in the workshops and informal social interaction.

We organised a food team to keep bellies full and tried to create a programme that balanced workshops and formal content with ample time and space for people to do the informal work of love. This included night time concerts at both events as well as film screenings of a selection of films that related to different struggles around love. We were pleasantly surprised by how successfully our ‘temporary commune’ functioned. There was no shortage of volunteers to help with the food preparation, childcare and cleaning mentioned above. In the final all-in sessions at both festivals, participants talked about their experiences. For many, the festivals helped them to rethink and reintegrate experiences of activist burnout and reconnect their political ideals with their desires for love, fun and community.

Organising Solidarity Teams

At a time when many people around the world are embracing exclusionary forms of love based on racial and national solidarity in the face of global uncertainty, many of us are struggling to articulate alternative conceptions of community with which we can identify. Revolutions in the concept of identity over the past few decades have shown how problematic identity can be as the basis of organising solidarity. Many now turn to notions of subjectivity to explain the many overlapping, unstable and complex identities and practices of identification through which we constitute ourselves as individuals within broader communities. While some contemporary understandings of love see it as an exclusive union between two individuals or as locked within other unified and unifying relationships of identity and sameness, the concept of love we have been exploring is inclusive and open-ended. Rather than settling for a fixed definition of love we have sought to explore multiple meanings and practices of love. The two festivals we organised have enabled this by embracing an open approach with multiple workshops hosted by volunteers with an interest and passion in exploring particular aspects of love.

One of the important bases in my thinking about the love festival was the understanding of the structure of the contemporary proletariat as a multitude. Wollongong has a long history of labour and communist movements but these movements were in serious decline by the time I came of age in the late 1990s. Out of the crisis of these older movements, however, a wide variety of social movements have arisen which lack a central organisational structure but do overlap in numerous ways to produce a collective culture of rebellion. This is a pattern that I have seen mirrored here in Tokyo and which others have reported from around the globe. How, then, to organise politically in this context?

Looking around Wollongong on my return to Australia in 2013 I observed a huge amount of organising and a huge amount of social solidarity. However, much of this activity appeared fractured and the sense of alienation and loneliness felt by many within these separate movements was palpable. The optimistic vision of love that Nick presented today is challenging for most of us given widespread experiences of isolation, loneliness and despair. Part of the vision of the love festival was to remind ourselves that we are not alone and that there are other people like us who are struggling for social change and more democratic and equal social relations in a multitude of ways. The festival was conceived as a project of commoning – of drawing together the various individuated experiences of social solidarity and create a temporary space in which they could find one another. Its aim was to recognise and to celebrate the existing forms of love in these overlapping networks and solidarity teams and to facilitate the further inter-weaving of these networks as an act of love expanding love.

Conclusions: A place to talk about love

It is not every day that one hears the term ‘love festival’, particularly in an academic venue such as this. In my experience and that of my fellow love festival organisers, the most common reaction to mention of our project is one of uncomfortable smirks and sniggers, presumably prompted by the idea that the love festival must be some form of orgy. This image seems to be tied to our stereotypical understandings of the counter-culture of the 1960s and 1970s, when sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll were said to form the basis of student and peace movements. However, the discomfort people experience when talking about the love festival also seems to have a deeper meaning and to be symptomatic of a more general discomfort we all feel when talking about love. In modernity, love has been largely privatised and confined within the romantic couple and the family. We called our love festival ‘Love: Art, Ideas, Music, Politics’ because we wanted to make explicit the link between love and all of these diverse social practices. We wanted to re-inject politics with love and love with politics by creating a space where people could come together to talk about love in a serious way.

Over the course of organising two Love festivals in 2014 and 2017 we have assembled a group of committed organisers, a broader network of participants and supporters and a body of knowledge and experience concerning love and its practice. We drew on our existing networks and solidarity teams and invited them to join in loving conversations with one another. By doing so, we helped to strengthen the bonds between the multitude of smaller loving communities that makes up Wollongong. Today we are continuing to nurture this network of solidarity teams by working on a book about the festival and the ideas behind it. The love festivals have been important events in all of our lives and our ongoing work on this project continues to give our lives meaning as we integrated the knowledge, experience and relationships generated at the festivals into our lives and struggles.





ふたたび日本を訪れる機会をいただき、シンポジウムを企画されたみなさんに感謝申し上げます。こうして旧友と再会し、新たな友人を作り、愛とケアについての意見を分かち合い、討議することが出来ます。愛の政治についてさらなる考察を深めるよう、時間と努力を注ぐべく力づけてくださったことに、深く感謝しています。私にとって、この問題はここ10年あまり、理論・実践面における中心的な関心事でした。愛とは何かという模索を、進歩的な社会運動や政治プロジェクトに関わる長い歳月の中で続けてきましたが、そのような場で、資本主義の恐怖、既存の社会との対立、政治的組織のマクロ形態に関心を寄せる人々と出会いました。そこでしばしばおろそかにされていたのは、個人間の関係や、今この場にいる人たちを集団として組織する際の、より思いやりのあるやり方でした。時が経つにつれて、私が人間同士の諸関係、いわば愛を通してより多くを得たいと望んでいたものと、政治を通して得たいと思っていたものとは同じなのだということが、はっきりと分かってきました。そこで、私は自分自身の哀しみ、また「哀しき戦闘性(sad militancy)」 (bergman & Montgomery, 2018) と名付けられたものから逃れようと試みてきました。つまり、よりよく生きる方法を整えようと努める人々に対し、過度に厳格で、容赦なく批判的であることからです。この政治的な旅路は、党派主義という伝統的な左翼文化を拒絶すること、いわば他人を非難・攻撃・取り締まろうとし、憎悪の持つ危険をより明確に認識し、得ることの出来ない純粋さや完璧さを求めて奮闘することからの決別でもありました。

 2012年、「危機とコモンズ」シンポジウムで前回日本を訪れた際には、私たちがいかに自分自身と他者とをケアするかということの重要性、活動家の燃え尽きの問題、セルフケア・個人の達成感・集団の取り組み・社会の団結との相関関係について述べました (Southall, 2013)。アレクサンダー・ブラウンとともに行った発表では (Brown & Southall, 2012)、今起きているグローバルな反乱が、自由、平等、そして愛を希求する政治プロジェクトをいかに生み出しているか探求しました。私たちの結論は、今生まれつつある民主的政府は、自治のネットワークと多様な社会的関係の上に建てられた制度が発展・拡張するにつれ「既に起きている(複数の)未来」を創造しながら資本を転覆させる力を持つようになる、それゆえに共産主義は、今もこれからもずっと、終わりがなくかつ新たに生まれ続けるものであり、現在進行形の未完成な複数のあり方でのみ実現され得るのだということでした。同様に、愛を求める闘争は、途切れることのないプロジェクトなのです。

 それにしても、愛とはいったい何でしょう? ある種の感じるもの、本能、感情、イデオロギー、情熱、プロジェクト、活動、それとも権力、煩悶、仕事、富、活動、必要なこと、欲望、意図、夢、幻想、ユートピアーといったものの一形態なのでしょうか? あるいはこれらすべてのもの、それ以上のものでしょうか? 私は基本的に愛を、互いを思いやる社会関係を創造・維持・開発するために奮闘することと定義しています。私の友人のひとりは、愛を「他の存在と、その存在がそれ自身のために発展することを尊重する行為」であるととらえています。愛とは単一のものではなく、さまざまな事柄の複合体です。このことは、愛の持ついくつかの問題を示唆しています。「われわれが愛しようと試みる時、実際のところ、一種類の努力を遂行しようとしているのではない。むしろ、時には互いに相容れない、さまざまなことを全範囲にわたって同時に行おうとしているのだ」 (Armstrong, 2001, 12)。 愛とは何かと想像すること―これが愛だと思い、そして愛について考えるということは、子どもの頃に学び、自分と何かとの相互の関係、私たちを囲む世界との関係を通して育まれていきます。愛すること、愛されるとは何かということは、社会と個人の歴史によって異なるものになるでしょう。愛とは何かという理解と信念は、私たち自身の変化、私たちを取り巻くものの変化、社会の変化によっても変わります。

 ナターシャ・レナードは、「重要な問いは、愛とは何ということではなく、愛が何をするかということなのだ。あるいは、もっと簡潔に言うのならば、私たちがそれで何が出来るかということなのだろう」と思索しています (2016)。悲観的な観点で愛をとらえると、愛は私たちを弱体化させるもの、無害にし、隷属させるもの、貧しく依存的にさせるものと考えられます。私たちには制御できないもの、避けようがなく抗しがたいものと考えられていることも少なくありません。愛の定義の多くは「自発性を強調」し、「努力や意図によるあらゆる要素の関与を認めることを否定」します。こうして、愛と私たちの労働の区別は「自分たちが再創造するように世界を形作る仲介者も力も、私たちは持っていないのだと匂わされる程度において」 (Lenard, 2016) 誤った方向へと導かれ、かつ保守的になります。ベル・フックスは (2000a: 4-5, 13) 、責務と説明責任をともなうものである以上、愛の発生とは行動であると唱えています。フックスは、スコット・ペックとエーリッヒ・フロムによる愛の分類、「意志、すなわち意図と行動の両者による行為」を援用しています。「また、意志には選択が内包されている。私たちは愛する必要はない。愛することを選択しているのだ」と。

 私はこれまでに書いた文章で、共産主義と愛を何度となく混成させています。どちらも自由、連携、そして互いを思いやる活動を伴うからです。しかし、毛沢東は (in Zizek: 2007) 「共産主義は愛にあらず。共産主義は敵を叩き潰すためのハンマーなり」と述べたと言われています。左派の多くは似たような見方で、資本主義者やさまざまな「階級の敵」への憎悪を動員し、別の左派を「修正主義者」「仲間割れの元凶」「支配階級の回し者」と、しばしば決めつけます。資本主義権力やその影響への憎悪というよりも、こうした個人に対する憎しみは、愛の成長を妨げ、芽を摘んでしまいます。その一方で、主観性には可能性や変革への契機があることを理解していると、あらゆる資本主義的主観性を、自分自身が内包しているそれも含めて拒否する手助けとなり、自身や他者を破壊的なまでに嫌悪することをも止められるのです。

 私の博士論文の中心課題は、現代の資本主義と階級闘争に関する発言でつとに知られる政治理論家、アントニオ・ネグリとマイケル・ハートの戦略的洞察についてでした。彼らは資本を社会関係としてとらえ、現行の資本主義の形態とは、入り組んだ社会政治的影響力の網の目の上に成り立つ、全世界的なネットワークの中で権力を組織している「帝国」であると説明しています。しかし、帝国の中にはより強力な力である「マルチチュード」、つまり自由・民主主義・平和、そして愛を求めて資本と対抗する集団的闘争を通して誕生する政治プロジェクトがあります。階級闘争を探求するにあたり、ハートとネグリは (2000) 、ミシェル・フーコーの「生権力」の概念を援用しています。フーコーは「権力は遍在」し、また「あらゆるところからやって来る」ものであるとし、人を締め付ける否定的な意味での権力と、肯定的な意味の可能性を与える生産的な権力とを区別しています。フーコーは「生権力」の概念を、資本の権力とは何かをとらえるために使っています。つまり、このような権力は国家を通じて行使され、しかも国家は、より分散・分権化した形態の支配が人々の生活・意識の深層・身体、そして社会関係を全面的に横断して、行きわたるよう手を貸すのだというのです。「生権力」の概念は、己の人生のコントロールを取り戻すことによって、人々が自らの手で自分自身を解放することについて理解する手掛かりとなります。

 ハートとネグリは (2000) 自律性にこだわりつつ、マルチチュードの現代社会運動の持つ最も重要な組織的特徴を、中央集権化した階級、指導者と代弁者の拒否、共同的意思決定、対等で親しい集団の存立を挙げています。ここで自律の概念が焦点をあてている権力の類型とは、取得したり分け与えたりするのではなく、人々がともに作る力であり、あらゆる人の自律、その人たちが持つ他者とのつながりを認め、支えるものです。革命的自治の実践は、資本主義の権力よりも、資本とその国家としての形態に、内側から、もしくは相対して、そしてそれらを超える形の闘争におけるプロレタリア的行為者の肯定をも含んだ自治、革命の発展に重きを置いています。マリーナ・シトリンは (2018)「自治は、運動と団体、そして個人との違いを区別するために使われてきました。われわれのために、または自分自身のために物事を決めるのです。党や政治家が、何をどのようにせよと指示するのを許すのではなく…自治は実践であり、ダイナミックなもので、イデオロギーでも理論でもありません。理論だと言ってしまうと、「生きた」ものが削がれ、実践性が薄れる危険があります」と述べています。資本や国家形態からの自律への闘争は、具体的な実践と、自分たちが作り出すものの形と内容を決める権力に基づいた政治にかかわるものです。つまり、私たち自身、私たちのコミュニティ、私たちの日常生活を整え、治める能力のことであり、何が価値あるものかと決める場のことです。

 こんにち、何が価値あるものかということをめぐっての議論は激しさを増し、政治としての愛の価値は、きわめて重要な闘争の舞台となっています。愛の政治的理解は、マルチチュードの力と、その力が資本に対抗し、価値を打ち消そうとする社会関係の強度からいかに湧き出でているのかを明らかにする手助けとなります。しかしながら、愛は社会闘争の重要な構成要素であると長らく認識されてきたにもかかわらず、政治的な議論や分析から抜け落ちていることは珍しくありません。愛を俎上に載せた考察の例を挙げると、エマ・ゴールドマンは愛を「生涯においてもっとも強く、もっとも深い要素であり、希望、喜び、法悦の先触れである。…あらゆる法、あらゆる因習に反逆し、…もっとも自由で、最も強力に人間の運命を形造るものだ」 (1911) と喝破しています。ロシア革命の最中、アレクサンドラ・コロンタイは、愛は「二人の愛し合う者だけの「個人的な」事柄ではなく、「深遠な社会的感情」であると主張し、同士関係と平等に基づく「愛-連帯」の価値を推進しました (in Ebert, 1999) 。

 1960年代、マーチン・ルーサー・キングJrが公民権運動を、愛のパワフルな形であると表現したように、愛の政治的概念が花開きました。「不屈の確固たる愛は、怨恨と憎しみを拒絶し、あらゆる不正義に対して動かされることがない」(Vincent Harding in Morgan, 1991, 39) 。チェ・ゲバラも「真の革命家は強い愛の感情によって導かれる」 (1965, 211) と書いています。政治としての愛についての新たな理解は、1967年の「サマー・オブ・ラブ」でもはっきり示されました。「サマー・オブ・ラブ」の政治は、権威主義、階級、代理制の拒絶を促し、平和、公民権、当時の革命運動を浸透させて、1968年の諸蜂起の発生を後押ししました。愛が政治的組織化のひとつの原動力になるとともに、既存の体制および伝統的左翼の双方に決裂を起こし、資本主義との抗争の拡大につながりました。しかし、革命的愛の実践は、資本主義国家の体をなしているものに、単に要求を突き付けるよりも、むしろよりはっきりと、それらに疑義をはさむようになっていきます。真の民主主義を求める60年代の闘争は、カール・オーグルスビーが分析するように「(愛を)脅かし、阻むものを、社会から」取り除くことによって、「愛をさらに可能なものとする」闘争だったのです (in Morgan, 1991, 94)  。

 それから数十年にわたって、愛は政治的闘争の主要な関心事となりました。家父長的・同性愛嫌悪的な愛への制約の拒絶もその中に含まれます。フェミニストおよびクィアの運動は、個人間の関係とケア労働の重要性に焦点をあてることによって、政治としての愛の概念の普及を、「個人的なことは政治的なこと」という概念を通して促しました。より近年ではサパティスタが、自分たちの革命的闘争を愛の形であると明言しました。彼らは愛することを学んだことによって、孤立に対峙し、連帯者と国境を越えてつながることが出来たのです。「自分たちのやり方で抵抗し、戦う人たち」へのサパティスタのメッセージは「あなたはひとりではない」そして「われわれはあなたを愛している」でした (EZLN, 2005)。メキシコ政府との政治交渉に失敗した後、彼らは「自分たちはこれからどうするのかと、心の中をさまよった。そうしてまず分かったことは、自分たちの心は、闘争を始める前ともはや同じではないということだった。多くのよき人々の心に触れたことで、より大きくなった」のです。彼らはメキシコ政府の善意にすがるより、愛し、愛されることが出来る、自分たちの包容力に身をゆだねました。世界各地で闘争を続ける人々に、メッセージと物的援助を送り、多くの人々がそれに応答しました。サパティスタにとって重要だったのは、彼らの心が変化したことで「われわれの心はさらに傷つき、より深くえぐられた。悪い政府の裏切りゆえに傷ついたのではなく、人の心に触れ、その悲しみにも触れたからだ」ということに気付いたことだったのです。

 近年の政治における「情動的転回」は、政治的関心事として愛をとらえることを推し進めました。マリーナ・シトリンも、自治と直接民主主義についての現行の実験を、「連帯と愛」の上に成立する「情動の新たな政治」であると言い表しています。シトリンの著書『ホリゾンタリズム(水平主義)』でインタビューされている社会活動家たちは、こうした新たな政治を、自身の内外に存在する資本主義的主観性に抗い、手なずけ、粉砕しながら、他者と自分自身を愛し、敬意を払うことを学ぶ過程であるととらえています。このような情動的な政治は、直接民主主義が「個人の感覚、そして集団の感覚を変える」集団的仲介者を育む「愛と信頼のある場の創出」の中心に据えられています。こうした政治は「情動を生み出すという点において情動的であり、愛と支援があふれる基盤を創り出している」のです (Sitrin, 2006, vii)。このようなミクロ・マクロの政治の連関の理解は、連帯する集団―互いを思いやり、社会に前向きなインパクトを与えようとするそれぞれの努力の価値を認め合う人々の集まりの、長大なつながりの中心に位置するものです (Reynolds, 2012)。その集まりには家族、仕事仲間、友人、政治的連帯者といった人々が含まれ得ます。互いに思いやる関係と、互いの顔が見える、資本主義になり代わる生きた何かを、近隣、地域、世界中に創出する手助けをするネットワークを作り上げる人たちです。したがって、こんにちの気候変動に対する抵抗運動や平和運動が、愛ある環境の重要性を強調するのは驚くべきことではありません。テロリズムやヘイトクライムへの草の根の応答は、防御のパワフルな形としての愛を強調し、「ブラック・ライブズ・マター」運動は「黒人へのラブレター」で口火を切りました。「私たちは自分自身を愛し、黒人の命が大事にされる世界を求めて闘わなければなりません。黒人のみなさん、あなたを愛しています。私たちを愛しています」と (Sydney Peace Foundation, 2018)。

 愛を創り出すことは、分かち合いの実践です。そうした分かち合いを構想し、準備し、整える個人と集団によって作り上げられます。アン・オークリーは、「何かを愛する経験をした人々が体験する並々ならぬ親密さは、大きな政治運動に参加した時の感情と似ている。自分が知覚する世界が拡張し、より激しさを増し、人間同士の境界線が霧散し、人間によくある利己主義が、尋常ならざる利他主義へと取って代わられるのだ」 (1986, 140) と述べています。このような解放の瞬間は、より徹底的に、互いに愛し合うことを可能にしてくれます。もうひとつの社会の在り方を「生きられた経験」を通して知ることで、規範、価値、思い込みを、自分の利害にまつわるものから、階層と人類の利益にかかわるものへと変換するのです。人は互いに親しくなると、「資材、知識、ものごとのやり方、文化の形、経験、音楽の伝統といったものを分かち合うことに長けていくようになり…人の暮らしとコミュニティを豊かにし、創造性の新たな地平を開き、交流を深め」ていきます (De Angelis, 2007, 153)。 進歩的な社会運動は、多様性と公共の活動に開かれた、情動的空間の創出を通して、さまざまなタイプの対人関係を生み出します。ベル・フックスが言うように (2003, xviii)、社会運動は戦略的な理由で人々を集めているのではなく、運動による人の集まりそのものが、人間の想像するものの核にある願望―自分自身をコミュニティの中に位置づけ、自分たちの生存を共同作業とし、自分たちと、自分たちを生かしめる地球とのつながりの中で、尊重される実感を得たいと希求することの実現なのです。

 にもかかわらず、愛は曖昧であるゆえに、さまざまな関係に生じる揺らぎを顕わにします。何かを愛することにともなう脆弱性は、弱さの表れであると見なされてきたことにもその一因があります。ですから、政治としての愛について考える時、力の一形態として愛をとらえることが手がかりになるでしょう。たとえば、カール・マルクスは「愛は愛を生み出す力だ」と述べています (in Fromm, 1960, 25) 。エーリッヒ・フロムは、愛は人々の仲立ちに依存する「生産的指向」を必要としていると唱え、マルクスに同意しています。愛を弱さととらえる人々は、思いやる関係が社会条件をいかに変革するかとは考えません。愛による前向きな影響を見過ごし、愛や思いやり、連帯の働きが、前向きな進展をいかに創り出すかを無視します。愛は偉業です。私たちが、個人としても集団としても創り出す何かであり、また、愛はたいへんな仕事でもあります。しかしながら、「仕事」を愛との関連で論じる時の大きな障壁は、資本による、また資本のための再/生産に限定された意味で使われがちな言葉であり、もうひとつの生き生きした在り方を構築するという仕事―愛による仕事―が見逃されるということにあります。


 時間の政治と愛の政治とは深く相互にからみあい、自治の実践は、より短い労働時間、自分たちの人生の時間のコントロール、労働の拒否といった問題を巻き込んでいきます。労働としての愛の認識は、愛としての自分自身の労働を整理するために、資本から自分たちを解放するための階級闘争の重要性を示しています。エーリッヒ・フロムは『愛するということ』の中で (1960)、愛は技術であり、その技を学ぶにはふたつの方法、理論と実践があると唱えています。愛には数多くの実践とともに、理論的知識と実践の結果の融合が求められるのです。しかし、いかなる技術を学ぶにも、第三の要素―究極の関心事が必要であり、そこにこそ、人はなぜ愛の技術を学ぼうと努めるのかという問いの答えがあるのだとフロムは言います。愛を渇望する思いは人の心に深く根差しているにもかかわらず、成功、金、財産といった、愛以外の何かの方がより重要だと考えられがちです。フロムによると、愛は人々を完全につなげ得る唯一のものだと言います。彼は、今の時代の中心的問題は他者とのつながりの断絶であると考えており、愛は人間存在の鍵となる問題を解決すると確信しているのです。

 愛の労働の産出は不均衡なまでに女性が担っており、そのほとんどが無償で、その価値や力、ケアワークの影響が過小評価されていることは広く知られています。同時に、無益な仕事のために己の人生を犠牲にすることは、まさにそれを受けるべき家族への愛の行為なのだと、多くの人たちは信じています。愛は「女性の仕事」であり、女性はより愛する存在であると、広く受け止められているのです。「女は男よりも、関係やつながり、コミュニティに関心を寄せる」のだと言っても、女性が生まれながらにして男性よりも愛するように出来ているからではなく、「いかに愛するかを学習するよう奨励される」からなのです (hooks, 2003, xvii)。家父長制は常に、愛を女性の仕事と見なしてきたがために、愛の労働の地位を下げ、価値を落としてきました。フェミニズム理論は、ケア労働の価値の向上、社会全体に愛の力を拡げていくという課題に関心を注いできました。労働をジェンダー化して区分することへの抵抗闘争は、愛の仕事を分かち合い、他の形態の仕事との区別を粉砕し、ゆくゆくは、あらゆる仕事が愛の労働となることを目指しています。こうした闘争は今、女性たちの国際的ストライキ、MeToo運動、安全への移動、性と生殖の権利とケア労働、国境を越えた広がりを見せる、女性の自律とすべての人の解放にかかわる運動の一環の中で表明されています。

 愛を求める共産主義的な闘争に対し、資本主義は常に、思いやる活動に障壁を施し、マルチチュードの社会的ネットワークを粉々にし、愛ある社会的関係を暴力的に破壊してきました。このような状況は、他者を思いやるという私たちの能力が攻撃され、不満と怒りのはけ口が共感の危機へと変貌し、多くの人たちが思いやることを止めてしまうという、ますますよくあるパターンを反映しています。シルヴィア・フェデリーチは最近の著作で 、「社会的連帯と家族関係の破壊」、労働者階級コミュニティの分裂、そして「社会的紐帯の弱体化」(2019, 180-181)をともなう、彼女がいうところの「日常生活の危機」について思索を深めています。「こうした状況下では、人々の間を調停する、最も重要な場である日常生活の営みが挫折しかねない。多くの人たちがそうした場から逃亡し、対人関係はやりくりするのがあまりに骨が折れるとみなされ、維持することが出来なくなる。つまり、家族によるものにせよ友人によるものにせよ、ケア労働が提供されなくなり、子どもや高齢者にとってとりわけ重大な結果を招く」と。フェデリーチにとって、これは「ケア労働に献身する資源の劇的な凋落であると同時に、家族をはじめとする他者を思いやる仕事の凋落、ひいては日常生活の価値をさらに下落させるという意味において〈再生産の危機〉」であり、その日常生活とは「深い疎外、不安、恐れの感覚によって彩られ」ています。


 ハートとネグリは、愛は長らく家族、企業、人種差別、大衆迎合主義、ファシズムによって腐敗せしめられ、支配者たちは愛を操作して、国家への愛、神への愛、君主への愛、指導者への愛を用いて当面の体制を守ると論じています (2009) 。昨今息を吹き返した右翼勢力は、「情動的転回」を政治に注ぐ能力を誇示し、その力を憎悪へと強力に動員しながらも、愛―アイデンティティや民族の祖先、文化的一体感の共有への愛に向かって結集しています。そして彼らは、コミュニティに属しているという感覚と一体感を、「あなたは愛するべきなのだ。ただし自分自身とあなたに属する人々だけを」というメッセージとともに差し出すことによって、怒れる人、孤独な人、疎外されている人々を首尾よくひきつけています。

 ジョージ・オーウェルはディストピア小説『1984』で (1949) 、未来の独裁主義における主要機関「愛情省」を通して、愛の政治について思索を展開しています。愛情省は支配体制への忠誠を、抑圧の圧倒的手段である恐怖と組織的洗脳によって強制します。愛情省の究極の目的は、ビッグ・ブラザーへの愛を一滴一滴と注入し、愛する人を裏切るよう人々に強制することです。これは多くの人が熟知している類の裏切りですが、人はその一方で、家族や友人は、金銭や仕事、財産よりも重要で価値があると思っているとも言いがちです。資本主義社会が、資本の蓄積や人々の労働と社会関係の支配において価値を見出しているものは、彼らの時間の過ごし方が示唆するところであり、人生の多くの時を競争と「生計を立てる」ことのしばしば無情なまでの追求に費やすよう、私たちを締め上げます。資本主義文化が私たちを分断し、引き離そうとする時、所有と支配の中心に愛を位置づけ、人を相互の所有物や競争相手として扱えと教え込むのです。資本主義が愛のない状態を育む時、商品や疎外された関係で愛への渇望を満たすよう唆し、そこで生産されるのは資本主義的商品を志向する資本主義的主観性、また資本主義的主観性に訴える資本主義的商品です。

 「日常生活の危機」に応答して、シルビア・フェデリーチは「私たち自身の生活を取り戻」そうと呼びかけ、さらに、私たちはいかに「私たちの生活の社会的構成を再構築し、家庭と地域を抵抗と政治的再構築の場へと変貌させられるか」 (2019, 183) と問いかけています。これらは今「人類の指針にかかわる、最も重要な問いの一部」なのだと。人々、関係、コミュニティ、そして社会運動にとってのケア労働の重要性を論じる中、フェデリーチ(2016) は 、資本とその国家形態が深刻な危機に陥っているギリシャを例に挙げ、人々が生き延び、資本主義に代わる生きた何かを創造する手助けをする、社会的連帯と支援のネットワークに注目しています。彼女はまた、そのような代替物を創造する際の女性の主導的役割を検討し、賃金や賃金闘争は今も重要でありながらも、資本からの自律を拡大し、私たちが作る富を本来あるべき場に戻すための闘争を称賛しなければならないと唱えています。今の社会の状況に関心を寄せる人々の多くは、伝統的政治や富の再分配について、自分たちが出来ることはそれほど多くはないと思っています。その代わり、自分たちの生活の中で、まだ変化を起こせると思える領域に照準を合わせます。いわば家庭、コミュニティ、「職場」といった、個人や現場、相互のニーズに直截に取り組み得る場、自分たちに何かが出来、人を思いやり、思いやることが尊重される場における社会的関係を変化させるのです。こうした活動は、日常生活を日々あらためて作るための複雑で活力あふれる集団的過程を経て、型にはまらない新たな主観性の豊かさを生み出す、さらに広範に広がる政治プロジェクトの一部なのです。



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Love as Politics

Nick Southall

The following is the text of a talk given at the symposium on Love as Politics at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies on Saturday 16 February, 2019. The talk is available in Japanese translation here.

Thank you to the symposium organisers for giving me the opportunity to visit Japan again, to meet with old friends and make new friends, to share our ideas and discuss love and care. I deeply appreciate your gift of encouraging me to put more time and effort into thinking about the politics of love. Over the past decade this has been my main theoretical and practical focus.I began this exploration of love following many years of involvement in progressive social movements and political projects, where I tended to find people concentrated on the horrors of capitalism, their opposition to existing society, and macro forms of political organising. What was often neglected were interpersonal relations and more caring ways of collectively organising the present. Over time, it became apparent that what I wanted more of in my personal relationships – love – was the same thing I wanted more of in politics. So, I have attempted to escape from my own sadness and what has been termed ‘sad militancy’ (bergman & Montgomery, 2018), that is, being overly rigid and ruthlessly critical of people in their efforts to organise better ways of living. This political journey has involved rejecting traditional leftist cultures of sectarianism; the denouncing, attacking, or policing of other people, and more clearly recognising the dangers of hatred and the striving for an unobtainable purity or perfection.

Reflecting on my previous trip to Japan for the Crisis and Commons Conference in 2012, I wrote about the importance of how we take care of ourselves and others, the problem of activist burn-out, and the relationship between self-care, individual fulfilment, collective engagement and social solidarity (Southall, 2013). In our paper, Alexander and I (Brown & Southall, 2012) investigated how contemporary global revolts were producing political projects addressing desires for freedom, democracy and love. We concluded by arguing that emerging forms of democratic government have the power to subvert capital as they develop and extend autonomous networks and institutions built upon qualitatively different social relationships, creating ‘future(s) that are already living’ and that communism is and will always be, unfinished and emergent and can only be realised in multiple, ongoing, and incomplete ways. Likewise, the struggle for love is a continuous project.

But what is love? Is it a feeling, an instinct, an emotion, an ideology, a passion, a project, an activity, a form of power, struggle, work, wealth, action, a need, desire, intention, dream, illusion, utopia? Or is it all of these, and more? I usually define love as the struggle to create, maintain, and develop caring social relations. A friend of mine sees love as ‘the act of valuing another being’s existence and flourishing for its own sake.’ Love isn’t a single thing but a complex of different concerns. This suggests some of the problems of love. “When we try to love we are not actually trying to undertake a single endeavour; rather, we are trying to do a whole range of different, and sometimes not very compatible, things simultaneously” (Armstrong, 2001, 12). How we imagine love – what we think it is and how we think about it – is learnt during childhood and developed through our relationships with each other and the world around us. What it’s like to love and be loved depends on social and individual histories. Our understandings and beliefs about love change as we change, as those around us change, and as society changes.

For Natasha Lennard (2016) “the key questions are not about what love is but about what love does. Or perhaps more precisely, what we can do with it.”Pessimistic views of love suppose that it weakens, disarms or enslaves us, making us needy, or dependent. Love is often seen as outside of our control, inevitable, and overpowering. Many definitions of love “emphasise its spontaneity” and “refuse to acknowledge that it could involve any element of effort or intention.” Here the separation between love and our labour is both misguided and conservative, “to the extent that it suggests that we have no agency, no power to shape the world as we recreate it” (Lenard, 2016). bell hooks (2000a: 4-5, 13) advocates a conception of love as action, since this assumes responsibility and accountability. She uses Scott Peck’s and Erich Fromm’s classification of love as “an act of will namely, both an intention and an action”. As she explains, “Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love”.

In my writing I often conflate communism and love because they both involve freedom, association, and caring activities. However, Mao Zedong (in Zizek: 2007) is quoted as saying that “communism is not love. Communism is a hammer we use to crush the enemy.” Many on the left have a similar view and mobilise around the hate of capitalists and various ‘class enemies’, often others on the left branded as ‘revisionists’, ‘splitters’, or ‘agents of the ruling class’. This hatred of individuals, rather than a hatred of capitalist power and its effects, hinders and stunts love. By contrast, understanding that subjectivities can and do change helps people to reject all capitalist subjectivities, including their own, while avoiding a destructive loathing of themselves and others.

The focus of my PhD. was on the strategic vision of political theorists Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, most famous for their accounts of contemporary capitalism and class struggle. They understand capital as a social relation and describe the current capitalist form as Empire, where power is organised in a global network based on a complex web of socio-political forces. Yet, within Empire is a more powerful force, the multitude, a political project brought into existence through collective struggle against capital and for freedom, democracy, peace, and love. To explore class struggle, Hardt and Negri (2000) use Michel Foucault’s concept of biopower. For Foucault; ‘Power is everywhere’ and ‘comes from everywhere’ and he makes a distinction between power in its negative sense as constrictive and power in its positive sense as enabling and productive. Foucault uses the concept of biopower to understand the power of capital, arguing that rather than this power being exercised through the state, the state acts as a support for more diffuse and decentralised forms of control which reach into every aspect of people’s lives, the depths of people’s consciousness, their bodies, and across the entirety of social relations. The concept of biopower can also help us to understand the self-organised emancipation of people through taking back control of their own lives.

Hardt and Negri (2000) identify the most important organisational characteristics of contemporary social movements of the multitude, as their insistence on autonomy; their refusal of centralised hierarchy, leaders and spokespeople; their collaborative decision-making and coordinated affinity groups. Here the concept of autonomy focuses on the types of power people create together, not power taken or given, recognising and supporting the autonomy of everyone as well as the interconnectedness of their lives with others. Revolutionary autonomist praxes emphasise the development of revolution, rather than the power of capitalism, where autonomy involves the affirmation of proletarian agency in the struggles within, against and beyond capital and its state forms. As Marina Sitrin (2018) explains; “Autonomy has been used to distinguish both movements and groups, as well as individuals. Deciding for ourselves or oneself. Not having a party or politician dictate what to do or how… autonomy is a practice and dynamic – not an ideology and theory – and the danger of calling it a theory is that it can become less ‘alive’ less of a practice.” The struggles for autonomy from capital and its state forms is about concrete practices and politics based on our power to determine the form and content of what we produce; our ability to organise and govern ourselves, our communities, and our everyday lives; where we decide what is valuable.

Today, the contestation over what is valuable is growing in intensity and the value of love as politics is a crucial arena of struggle. Political conceptions of love assist in the clarification of the multitude’s power and how it flows from the strength of the social relationships opposing and negating capital. Yet love is often absent from political discussions and analysis, even though it has long been recognised as an important component of social struggles. For instance, in 1911, the revolutionary Emma Goldman (1911) pointed out that love is “the strongest and deepest element in all life, the harbinger of hope, of joy, of ecstasy; … the defier of all laws, of all conventions; … the freest, the most powerful moulder of human destiny.” During the Russian Revolution, Alexandra Kollontai (in Ebert, 1999) promoted the value of “love-solidarity” based on comradeship and equality, arguing that love “is a profoundly social emotion” not “a `private’ matter concerning only two loving persons.”

During the 1960s, political conceptions of love flourished as Martin Luther King Jr. described the campaign for civil rights as a powerful form of love, “the tough and resolute love that refused bitterness and hatred but stood firmly against every shred of injustice” (Vincent Harding in Morgan, 1991, 39) and Che Guevara (1965, 211) wrote that “the true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings of love.” A new understanding of love as politics was also manifested during the ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967. The politics of the ‘Summer of Love’ permeated the peace, civil rights, and revolutionary movements of the time, encouraging a rejection of authoritarianism, hierarchy, and representation, helping to spark the uprisings of 1968. As love became a motor of political composition, it ruptured the spectacle of both the establishment and the traditional left and led to growing conflicts with capitalism. However, rather than just placing demands on capitalist state forms, the praxes of revolutionary love began to contest them more clearly. As Carl Oglesby (in Morgan, 1991, 94) observed, the struggle for genuine democracy during the sixties was a struggle “to make love more possible” by removing “from society what threatens and prevents it”.

During the following decades, love continued to be a major focus of political struggle, including the widespread rejection of patriarchal and homophobic restrictions of love. Feminist and queer movements helped to popularise love as politics through understandings that ‘the personal is political’, focusing on interpersonal relations and the importance of care work. More recently the Zapatistas have articulated their revolutionary struggles as forms of love. For them it is learning to love which has countered their isolation and connected them globally to their allies. The Zapatista’s message to “those who are resisting and fighting in their own ways” is “that you are not alone” and “we love you” (EZLN, 2005). After political negotiations with the Mexican government failed, the Zapatistas “wondered in our hearts what we were going to do. And the first thing we saw was that our heart was not the same as before, when we began our struggle. It was larger, because now we had touched the hearts of many good people”. Rather than relying on the goodwill of the Mexican government, the Zapatistas began to rely on their capacity to love and be loved. They started sending their words and material aid to others struggling all over the world, and many reciprocated. Importantly for the Zapatistas, their change of heart also revealed that “our heart was more hurt, it was more wounded. And it was not wounded by the deceits of the bad governments, but because, when we touched the hearts of others, we also touched their sorrows.”

The recent ‘affective turn’ in politics has promoted a recognition of love as a political concern and Marina Sitrin describes contemporary experiments in autonomy and direct democracy as “the new politics of affectivity” established on the basis of “solidarity and love”. The social activists interviewed in Sitrin’s book Horizontalism consider this new politics as a process of learning to love and respect others and themselves, while resisting, managing and demolishing internal and external capitalist subjectivities. This affective politics is centred on “the creation of loving and trusting spaces” where direct democracy fosters a collective agency which “changes the sense of the individual and the sense of the collective”. These politics are “affective in the sense of creating affection, creating a base that is loving and supportive” (Sitrin, 2006, vii). This understanding of the connections between micro and macro politics is at the heart of a vast array of solidarity teams; groups of people who care for each other and acknowledge the value of each other’s efforts to make positive impacts on society (Reynolds, 2012). These teams can include family, work mates, friends, and political allies, constructing reciprocal caring relationships and networks of support helping people create living alternatives to capitalism face to face, in neighbourhoods, communities, and across the globe. So it’s not surprising that today climate change and peace protests highlight the importance of loving environments, that grass roots responses to terrorism and hate crimes emphasise love as a powerful form of defence, or that the Black Lives Matter movement began with a ‘Love Letter to Black Folks’ which explained “We need to love ourselves and fight for a world where black lives matter. Black people, I love you. I love us” (Sydney Peace Foundation, 2018).

The creation of love is a shared praxis, produced by individuals and collectives that co-ordinate, organise and plan this sharing. Ann Oakley (1986, 140) argues that “[t]he extraordinary intimacy experienced by people who have fallen in love is akin to that felt by participation in great political movements: one’s sensory world expands, becomes more intense, the boundaries between people become diffused, ordinary human selfishness is replaced by an unusual altruism”. These moments of liberation enable people to love each other more completely. The lived experience of alternative society transforms norms, values, and beliefs, from those of self-interest into those of class and human interest. As people come closer to each other they are “better able to share resources, knowledge, ways of doing things, cultural forms, experiences, musical traditions . . . enriching the lives of people and communities, opening up new horizons for creativity, and deepening exchanges” (De Angelis, 2007, 153). Progressive social movements generate different types of interpersonal relationships through the creation of affective spaces, open to diversity and common activity. And as bell hooks (2003, xviii) explains, it is not only for strategic reasons that social movements bring people together, as movement meetings are in themselves the realisations of a desire that is at the core of human imaginings, the desire to locate ourselves in community, to make our survival a shared effort, to experience a palpable reverence in our connections with each other and the earth that sustains us.

None-the-less the ambiguities of love expose us to a range of relationship uncertainties and because loving involves vulnerability it is often seen as a form of weakness. So, when we consider love as politics, it helps to appreciate love as a form of power. For instance, Karl Marx (in Fromm, 1960, 25) explains that “love is a power which produces love”. Erich Fromm agrees with Marx arguing that love needs a “productive orientation” which relies on people’s agency. Those who view love as a weakness don’t appreciate how caring connections can transform social conditions. They fail to account for the positive impact of love and ignore how the work of love, care, and solidarity, produces positive developments. Love is an achievement; it is something we create, both individually and collectively, and love can be hard work. However, a major obstacle when discussing ‘work’ in relation to love is that the term tends to be limited to the re/productive work of and for capital and neglects the work of constructing living alternatives – the work of love.

Through care work, people both function as instruments of capital and live as social beings, affirming themselves and others by actively producing the power of love to satisfy human needs and desires. When care work is waged labour it can be extremely alienating, as what is sold by the wage labourer and commanded by their client and/or boss is the worker’s ability to make human relationships. Increasingly we’re supposed to love what we do and find our passions in work. Yet many of us find our paid jobs less and less fulfilling. Working for a boss or a bureaucracy, competing with others in a ruthless struggle to ‘get ahead’, undermines our ability to love, leaving too little time or energy for what is most important – those we love and learning the art of loving.

The politics of time and the politics of love are deeply intertwined and autonomist praxis has revolved around struggles for shorter work hours, control over our life time, and work refusal. The recognition of love as work, points to the importance of class struggles to liberate ourselves from capital in order to organise our own labour, as love. In his book The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm (1960) argues that love is an art and that learning this art can be divided into two parts: theory and practice. Love requires a great deal of practice, and theoretical knowledge and the results of practice need to be blended together.  But, according to Fromm, there’s a third factor necessary for learning any art, it should be a matter of ultimate concern, and here lies the answer to why people struggle to learn the art of love. Despite a deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else tends to be considered more important: success, money, possessions, etc. According to Fromm, love is the only thing that can fully connect people and since he believes that being disconnected from other people is the central problem of our times, love is the solution to the key problem of human existence.

It is widely understood that the labours of love are disproportionately borne by women, most of which is unpaid, with the value, power, and influence of this care work under-estimated. At the same time, many people believe that sacrificing their lives to stultifying work is an act of love for the family they’re meant to provide for. There’s a common perception that love tends to be ‘women’s work’ and that women are more loving. “Females are more likely to be concerned with relationships, connection, and community than are males”, but this is not because women are inherently more loving than men, but because “they are encouraged to learn how to love” (hooks, 2003, xvii). Since patriarchy has always seen love as women’s work, it has degraded and devalued the labours of love. Feminist theory has drawn attention to the task of promoting the value of caring labour and the extension of the power of love to the whole of society. Struggles against gendered divisions of labour aim to share the work of love and break down distinctions between the work of love and other forms of work, so that all work can eventually become labours of love. Today these struggles are manifested in international women’s strikes, the MeToo movement, and mobilisations around safety, reproductive rights and caring work, part of a growing transnational movement for women’s autonomy and emancipation for all.

In response to communistic struggles for love, capitalism is constantly erecting barriers and obstacles to our caring activities, atomising the social networks of the multitude, and violently destroying loving social relationships. This situation reflects a more general pattern, where our ability to care is under attack, where frustration and anger is being channelled into a crisis of compassion, and where many people become resigned to not caring. In her recent work Silvia Federici (2019, 180-181) has explored what she calls “the crisis of everyday life” involving “a breakdown in social solidarity and family relations”, the disintegration of working class communities, and “weakening social bonds”. She argues that; “Under these circumstances, everyday life, which is the primary terrain of mediation among people, has been allowed to shipwreck; it has become a terrain from which many are fleeing, unable to sustain interpersonal relations that appear too laborious and difficult to handle. This means that care work, either by family members or friends, is not attended to, with consequences that are especially severe in the case of children and the elderly.” For Federici this is a ‘crisis of reproduction’ in the sense of a drastic decline in the resources devoted to it, a decline as well of the work of caring for other people, beginning with family members, and a further devaluation of everyday life” where “daily experience is characterised by a profound sense of alienation, anxiety, and fear.”

Capital is anti-love and erodes the social fabric of love which it requires for social re/production and cooperation, violently destroying social relationships by incessantly producing poverty, hunger and war and the destruction of people, communities and the environment. Capital relies on the sociality of labour while simultaneously using violence and repression to impose commodification and exploitation, trying to protect itself from communism. Many of the transformations in work practices, including intensification, casualisation, precarity, flexibility, nomadism and speed-ups, have detrimentally affected the capacity of the multitude to engage in caring labour for capital and themselves. People who become physically and emotionally distanced from each other, often don’t have the time, money, resources and social support to sustain strong connections and loving relationships. Capital consumes our ability to care, while promoting a selfish culture in which things matter more than people, and where the passion to connect is replaced by the passion to possess. 

As Hardt and Negri (2009) explain, love has long been corrupted by the family, the corporation, racism, populism, and fascism, and rulers manipulate love to defend the status quo via love of the nation, love of god, love of the monarch, or love of the leader. Today, resurgent right-wing forces have demonstrated their ability to address the ‘affective turn’ in politics, powerfully mobilising around hate, but also rallying around love; the love of shared identities, ethnic ancestries, or cultural identifications, and the right is successfully attracting those feeling angry, lonely, and alienated by offering them a sense of community and togetherness with the idea that ‘you should care, but only about yourself and your own people’.

George Orwell’s (1949) exploration of the politics of love in his dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, locates the main instrument of futuristic authoritarianism in the Ministry of Love. The Ministry of Love enforces loyalty to the ruling regime through fear, a massive apparatus of repression, and systematic brainwashing. The Ministry’s ultimate purpose is to instil a love of Big Brother and to force people to betray their loved ones. This is a betrayal many people know well andwhile people tend to say they value family and friends as more important than money, work, and possessions; how they spend their time indicates the value capitalist society puts on the accumulation of capital, the control of people’s labour, and their social relations; getting us to surrender much of our lives to the competitive and often hard-heartedpursuit of ‘making a living’. As capitalist culture tries to divide and separate us, it represents love as centred on ownership and control, teaching people to treat each other as possessions and competitors. As capitalism fosters lovelessness, it offers to satisfy the desire for love with commodities and alienated relationships, producing capitalist subjectivities for capitalist commodities and capitalist commodities for capitalist subjectivities.

In response to the ‘crisis of everyday life’ Silvia Federici (2019, 183) calls on us to “Retake Our Own Lives” and asks how we can “reconstitute the social fabrics of our lives and transform the home and the neighbourhood into places of resistance and political reconstruction?” Arguing that today these “are some of the most important questions on humanity’s agenda.” Discussing the importance of care work; for people, relationships, communities and social movements, Federici (2016) uses the example of Greece, where capital and its state forms have been in deep crisis, to highlight the networks of social solidarity and support that are helping people to survive and to create living alternatives to capitalism. She also discusses the leading role of women in creating these alternatives, arguing that while wages and wage struggles remain important these need to compliment struggles to expand our autonomy from capital, and to reappropriate the wealth we create. Many of those concerned about the state of society believe there isn’t much they can do about traditional politics or the redistribution of wealth. Instead they focus on areas of their lives where they still feel able to make changes – altering social relations in homes, communities, and ‘workplaces’, where personal, local, and mutual needs can be more directly addressed – where they can and do care and where care is valued. These activities are part of more widespread political projects which produce a wealth of alternative subjectivities via complex and dynamic collective processes to remake everyday life every day.

Since the terrain of political struggle is all of society – the ability to organise socially is the same as the ability to organise politically. As the multitude learns to increase its powers of communication and cooperation and to act in more loving ways, it affirms its autonomy, interdependence, and commonality, as a productive, networked, and affective global community. This is a powerful basis for long-term political transformations and loving relationships make our lives worth living despite, against, and beyond capitalism, not just after it.  The extension of love weakens the power of capital, making loving easier and increasing collective human capacities for self-organisation. Liberation struggles are increasingly concerned with protecting and embracing biodiversity and the creation of loving environments, focussed equally on humans and the nonhuman world in a dynamic of interconnection, care, and mutual transformation. The love of the multitude resists, refuses and exceeds development organised around notions that human advancement and human joy can be measured by productivist or consumerist economic indicators. Only within communistic biopolitical relations is love genuinely valued, not as an economic form of value, but as a quality of life, as the well-being of living things. Ignorance of how to love is a serious obstacle to any revolutionary political agenda and combating the anti-love of capital depends on the multitude’s capacities to act in loving ways, to build love in families, among friends, throughout communities, social networks, and movements. Today there’s a global movement to promote love as a power for social development and political change. Working together we are already part of an alternative community, struggling to strengthen our autonomy, our capacity to organise, to make our own decisions, and to produce non-capitalist society, as a revolution of love.


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From Albury to Hiroshima, Port Kembla to Tokyo

In my last post I focused on the nitty gritty of adapting to life in a new country. This week, I want to reflect on some of the broader questions that are driving my current research and writing. In the academic world, the myth of objectivity remains potent, despite decades of criticism showing how impossible (and indeed undesirable) it is for us to fully step outside of our own experience. Given the context in which they were written, it is inevitable that my PhD thesis and the book that I based reproduced this culture. Yet at the heart of that project was an interrogation of my political experiences in Australia and Japan. In the process of writing my PhD, I tried to explore some of these connections in a prologue that never made the final cut. Lately I have been re-reading these notes as I try to think about what to do with this great gift of two years in Japan to read and write and think. When I wrote the notes for that never-published prologue, I was trying to grapple with the deep roots of my engagement with Japan. In order to do so I had to dig through my earliest memories of things ‘Japanese’. When I did so I found that these memories were of Hiroshima.

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes NBNR

It was Eleanor Coerr’s historical novel Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes that gave me my first insight into the bombing and its radioactive legacy. Sadako’s story is widely known among Australian schoolchildren of my generation. We heard the story, folded cranes and sent them to Hiroshima as part of a global movement for peace education that was inspired by the tragedy of nuclear war. The plot of the story can be summarised as follows. The main character Sadako Sasaki is two years old when the atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima. Ten years later, she develops a mysterious illness which turns out to be leukaemia caused by exposure to radiation from the bomb. As she lies dying in hospital, she finds hope in an ancient myth that anyone who folds one thousand paper cranes will be granted one wish; Sadako’s wish is to live. Desperately conserving every scrap of paper that finds its way to her hospital bed, she even folds cranes out of the silver wrapping paper used for medicines in the hospital. Tragically and inevitably, however, Sadako dies without completing her task. When I was a child, I had this story on cassette tape and thanks to the wonders of what was then the latest cutting-edge (and probably made-in-Japan technology), I could listen to the story through my headphones over and over again.

The second memory of Hiroshima from my early childhood is of my parents’ visit to Japan in 1989, when they made on their way to a medical conference in South Korea. They visited the Peace Memorial Park at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where a statue of Sadako stands festooned with wreaths of paper cranes sent by children from all over the world. They brought back a souvenir booklet from the memorial which contained numerous photographs of artefacts preserved in the museum. Two of these, a picture of a piece of parchment-like burnt skin and another of a human shadow that was etched into a set of concrete steps by the power of the blast, were burned into my consciousness forever.

Perhaps these early memories and experiences help to explain why, after taking Japanese classes at Albury High School and later in Wollongong at Smith’s Hill, just like tens of thousands of Australian students of my generation, I have continued to study the language for more than twenty five years. I speak near-native Japanese now. When I speak with people in Japan in their native language I am often asked how and why I learned it. I never fail to be shocked by the assumption contained in the question – that it is somehow strange or unusual for someone not born in Japan to learn the language of one of the most populous nations on earth. It is a question that speaks reams about the politics of language in Japan and the dominance of English as a global language. My inquirers are usually shocked when I explain that there was in fact nothing remarkable about studying Japanese in Australia in the early 1990s as it was then national policy to promote Asian language education in schools. In 1997 at the age of 15 I decided to further my language studies by spending a year as an exchange student at a high school in Japan and during that year my mother visited from Australia and we went to Hiroshima; where I could see that burnt skin and etched concrete with my own eyes. Thus for me, the journey to Tokyo begins in a high school classroom in Albury and continues by way of Hiroshima to Wollongong and Tokyo.

Hiroshima Day, Wollongong, 2016
Hiroshima Day, Wollongong, 2016

I feel impelled to grapple in my writing with the ways in which my own life has been entangled in the cultural space between Australia and Japan. For many years I have been thinking about exploring the ways in which nuclear things traverse people, places and things to create links between Australia and Japan. My research so far suggests that little has been written on this topic and I have therefore started to turn my attention to this topic more and more over the past year. In a paper which is currently under review with an academic journal, I explore the ways in which anti-nuclear activism between Australia and Japan has developed since the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011. Following on from this, I have started looking at earlier activist links between the two countries as well as trying to uncover the role of Japanese capital in the development of uranium mining in Australia. My research so far suggests that Japan’s quest for uranium had a significant impact on the industry’s early development in Australia, although I am still trying to gauge the size of that impact. Certainly it is true that up until the 2011 disaster, Japan sourced some 30 per cent of its yellowcake imports from Australia.

Banner against nuclear power created in Japan and sent to anti-uranium activists in Australia
Banner against nuclear power created in Japan and sent to anti-uranium activists. Photo taken in Australia during Peace Boat tour, 2013.

But the nuclear relationship between Australia and Japan extends beyond uranium mining and nuclear power. Hiroshima and Nagasaki have become a powerful international symbol of the terror of war in general and of nuclear weapons in particular. In Australia, successive waves of peace movement activism from the 1950s onward have looked to Hiroshima and Nagasaki as reference points and pilgrimages to ground zero in Hiroshima, like the one I made in 1997, remain an established part of peace culture in Australia. In a recent arts project involving Indigenous survivors of British nuclear testing in South Australia, for example, artists from the Yalata community created the Tree of Life: Gift of Peace sculpture representing their experience of nuclear harms for the peace park in Nagasaki.

Struggles for peace in Australia and Japan are also shaped by both countries’ relationship with their alliance ‘partner’: the hegemonic global power that is the United States of America and to our respective positions under its so-called ‘nuclear umbrella’. The US empire of bases, which extends across the Pacific, imbricates both Australia and Japan in that fading global superpower’s century-long reign of war and terror, from Korea to Vietnam and from Central Asia to Iraq.

Australia and Japan, like all nations, are essentially fictions created and policed by institutions and ideologies. By focusing on the transnationality of nuclear things, I hope to slip across the hard borders of Australia and Japan and see what role the nuclear plays in their construction as nations and in the bilateral relationships between them. One of my key reference points is the idea of ‘citizen diplomacy’. This is the promise that non-national entities can and do shape international relationships along different pathways and mould alternatives to the diplomacy of the racist militarists who dominate national governments, with their focus on enriching the already rich by fomenting hate and mistrust. We can see an example of this citizen diplomacy in the Indigenous arts project mentioned above, where South Australian victims of nuclear harms worked with local governments in Australia and Japan to create a transnational community of memory for peace and against nuclear weapons.

I will conclude today’s post by reflecting on the Dalfram dispute, one of the most important labour disputes in Wollongong’s history (for an overview see Mike Donaldson & Nick Southall, Against Fascism and War: Pig Iron Bob and the Dalfram Dispute, Port Kembla, 1938). This dispute centred on the issue of pig iron exports to Japan at a time when the Japanese empire was prosecuting a war of aggression on the Chinese mainland. In protest at Japanese atrocities in Nanjing and out of concern that war materiel exported to Japan might return to Australia as bombs and bullets, waterside workers in Port Kembla refused to load pig iron onto a ship that was bound for Kobe. The wharfies’ actions provoked a major industrial dispute that spread to the nearby steelworks. After a bitter struggle, during which the then Attorney General Robert Menzies earned the moniker ‘Pig Iron Bob’ for his determination to supply fascist Japan with BHP scrap, the government finally imposed a ban on the further export of scrap metal to Japan. A few years later the wharfies’ prescience was confirmed when Japan attacked Darwin, an attack from which my great-grandfather Hugh Maegraith was lucky to escape with his life.

In recent years there have been a series of memorial events for the Dalfram dispute to celebrate the Port Kembla waterside workers’ solidarity with the Chinese victims of Japanese aggression. Yet I have always wondered about Japan’s position in all of this. In the late 1930s, Japan was becoming ever more deeply engaged in its war in Asia. We are regularly told that there was little domestic resistance to the war-drive in Japan, yet the fact so many Communists and other dissenters were imprisoned and repressed for their opposition to militarism is testament to the fact that there was some resistance on the road to war. Perhaps one of my goals in exploring the nuclear relationship between Australia and Japan is to investigate the possibility of actions like those that the Port Kembla workers took might also help to rethink and reinvent the relationship between Australia and Japan.

Dalfram Dispute Memorial, Port Kembla
Dalfram Dispute Memorial, Port Kembla

Recent reports in the news media suggest that Japan is becoming the favoured tourist destination for Australians, even surpassing Bali. I would like to think that alongside this explosion in Japan-bound tourism we might also be able to foster a deeper engagement with one another; one that goes beyond touristic voyeurism towards real partnerships in the quest for peace, justice and environmental conservation. Perhaps by looking at the transnational resistance to radioactive harms we might find hints as to how communities that span two national spaces might work together to bring an end to the scourge of nuclear weapons and to the nuclear power plants and uranium mining that have affected us since the dawn of the nuclear age.

Settling In

Its been well over a month now since my last post and I am feeling the first pangs of self-doubt regarding my pledge to publish weekly! In my defence, however, it has been a busy month. I last posted on 19 December just over a week prior to the arrival of my family from Australia. At that time I was in the midst of preparations for making us a home. Now one month later, after a fairly rocky transition to family life in Japan, I am back in the saddle. The past month has been both busy and demanding on a personal level but also rich in material for my research. Having written a book on anti-nuclear protest in Japan that focuses on the politics of the everyday, I cannot look at any everyday rhythm or routine without thinking politically. As my family and I struggle to establish new routines for ourselves in a new, and for most of us unfamiliar, environment, potential research questions and topics have been presenting themselves to me wherever I turn. The first major step in this process began with the search for a family home. This meant jumping feet first into the the Tokyo property market. My first impression was one of organised chaos. Although property listings are largely centralised in online computer databases, not all agents can show all properties, though most seem to be able to show most. Inevitably, for an urban geographer the quest to find a home is an ethnographic experience and it raises just as many historical and theoretical questions as it does practical ones. I have had to think about the size of bathrooms and whether or not I can squeeze a refrigerator into the tiny kitchens but in the process I have learned much about housing and about the state of the rental market in Tokyo.

Kunitachi Fujimidai Danchi

After viewing a number of private manshon-style apartments with a couple of local real estate agents I was underwhelmed by the quality of the dwellings and their surrounds. When I finally discovered that UR has its own letting agency on the grounds of the Kunitachi Fujimidai Danchi I hastened there to be shown around a number of the apartments. The buildings are stark concrete monoliths. Row upon row of them stretch across each complex, producing a rather Soviet-era impression on my neoliberal Australian subjectivity.

Danchi playground
Concrete, steel and dirt. One of the playgrounds of the Kunitachi Fujimdai Danchi. December 2018.

Nevertheless, on viewing the flats I discovered that not only are they much more spacious than equivalent private manshon flats but they have beautiful views out over the well-tended grounds, large trees and carefully manicured shrubbery. The only view I saw from any of the manshon windows was of a car park. After viewing the danchi it was love at first site. I returned to the letting agency the following day to view some more apartments and settled on a third-floor unit in the No 2 complex bordering Kunitachi’s Daisan Park. We can see the local library from out our window and behind us is the Kunitachi town hall with its famous ‘gorilla park’, where gorilla statues provide my children with entertainment.

Child climbing in the danchi playground.
An explorer takes on the challenge of the danchi‘s old steel jungle gym. Gripping cold steel bars on a winter’s morning leads to cold hands and tears and a three-year-old who concedes that maybe gloves wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all.
Kunitachi Fujimidai Danchi, December 2018.

Located between Yaho and Yagawa stations on the JR Nanbu railway line sits the Kunitachi Fujimidai Danchi, a large housing project with three separate campuses, each of which consists of a number of large towers. In addition to the attached parklands and play equipment was the appeal of the low monthly rent. Having found these apartments listed on the major real estate index sites, however, I did not realise that they were public housing units managed by the Urban Renaissance Agency (UR都市機構). UR is one of the so-called dokuritsu gyōsei hōjin or Incorporated Administrative Agencies. These government agencies were created under the Basic Law on Reforming Government Ministries and are are permitted to operate autonomously from government ministries along the lines of private-sector corporations. UR manages a large number of public housing units that were built by the Japanese Housing Corporation (JHC) in the midst of the post-war housing crisis to house the new middle class.

One of the hot topics in conversations with my partner in in the lead-up to our family adventure in Japan has been about our desire to experiment with a different way of life than that provided by our spacious detached home in Port Kembla. The fact that we have spent many months preparing our home to be rented out on the private market has intensified a mutual feeling of frustration at the stereotypically suburban nature of our lifestyle. Every weekend without fail we have to spend at least some of our time maintaining our property – whether it be painting the walls, mowing the lawn or installing a new towel rack. I have begun to pine for a more urban way of life—in which apartment living might bring proximity to amenities and parks maintained through our taxes rather than through the solitary labours of myself and my family. It is one of the peculiar contradictions of our positionality as middle class communist home owners 🙂 that our living environment actually reinforces our middle class nuclear family status and seems to take us ever further from the alternative way of life we imagined for ourselves when we were younger. The danchi therefore seemed a perfect place to dabble with apartment living and to see whether ample local parks and the public library could compensate for a significant decrease in internal floor space.

Danchi as Social Movement

From the perspective of social movements and social movement research, my interest in the danchi was further piqued by two banners I saw flying on the grounds while walking past one Monday morning.

Campaign banner flying at Kunitachi Fujimidai Danchi
Kunitachi Fujimidai Danchi, December 2018

The first read 「公団住宅を公共住宅として守ろう。団地の売却・削減・統廃合に反対」 (Keep public housing public. No to the sale, reduction and consolidation of our danchi) and bore the imprimatur of the Fujimidai danchi’s self-governing committee (jichikai).

Campaign banner flying at Kunitachi Fujimidai Danchi
Kunitachi Fujimidai Danchi, December 2018

The second banner reads 「住まいは福祉・住まいは人権。誰もがすみ続けられる住宅政策を」(Housing is a social service. Housing is a human right. For a housing policy that allows anyone to remain in their home). This slogan seems to draw a link between the struggle against the privatisation of Tokyo’s public housing blocks and notions of social rights. It is worth noting that the right to housing is included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but like most of the social rights it has been largely ignored by so-called liberal states, who see civil and political rights (or at least those that suit them) as being vastly more important than social rights.

I noticed immediately that the banner is professionally printed but that the name of the local Fujimidai self-governing committee is written in ink in a blank space reserved for this purpose. This suggests a broader campaign encompassing several danchi of which the local organisation is but a part.

Campaign banner flying at Kunitachi Fujimidai Danchi
Kunitachi Fujimidai Danchi, December 2018

There are several similar flags flying from the three campuses of our Kunitachi Fujimidai danchi. I have not yet had time to investigate the background to these slogans and flags but the struggles over the future of these ageing public housing blocks seem pertinent to my current research on social movements and urban space and demand further study. I have taken one step towards this since moving in by joining the jichikai and attending my first jichikai event. This fureai kissa (a gathering for tea and cake) featured two speakers from the local municipal government waste department who came to help us figure out the complex system for dividing and classifying our waste. The need for the lecture has been amplified by introduction of the system of paying for waste disposal which has been introduced since I last lived in Kunitachi. Specially marked coloured plastic bags are sold at supermarkets and other local shops. The city will now only collect most categories of waste (other than so called shigen gomi or resource waste like paper, cardboard, glass and tins) if they are in the correct bag. The fureai kissa was, much as I anticipated, a very grey affair. I would guess the average age in the room was well above 70. When I mentioned I was interested in joining the jichikai to one of my neighbours, who is clearly very active in the life of the danchi, she provided me with a sheaf of reading materials including a recent report from the jichikai that includes the results of a survey they conducted on the residents. Reading the survey results confirmed my suspicions, something in the order of 85% of residents are aged over 65. Turning up with my eight-month-old daughter therefore proved to be a hit with the locals, many of whom were keen to hold and fawn over her. This simultaneously allowed me to overcome some of the initial awkwardness one might expect when an unlikely white newcomer arrives at such a gathering of old friends.

Settling in has thrown up a whole series of new questions that in turn feed back on my research: how do the danchi fit in to the overall picture of civic activism in Kunitachi? Could a focus on the aging danchi population prove fertile ground for exploring that space between social activism and everyday life that I am so keen to explore?


Last week I explained my motivation for returning to the municipality of Kunitachi for my two year stint as a JSPS International Research Fellow at Japan Women’s University. I have been in Japan for more than two weeks now and after having found a place for my family to live, I am slowly settling into a writing routine. This week found me beginning to exploring the geography and history of Kunitachi, which will be the main focus of my research project and of this blog. It is therefore worth explaining briefly the structure of local government in Japan so that the reader can gain a sense of what I mean by the municipality of Kunitachi. There are two levels of local government in Japan. The first is the prefectural-level administration for each of the forty-seven prefectures. Each of these prefectures is then divided into a number of local municipalities. This municipal level of government is the most intimate. It has responsibility for registering births, deaths and marriages under the household registration system and attends to the myriad facets of everyday life, from garbage disposal to childcare.

For most people who live in Japan their local municipal government presents itself as the most familiar face of government. For example, although I have been in Japan for a little over two weeks I have already visited my local government office to establish a record of residency in Kunitachi, join the national health insurance scheme and obtain information about local childcare options for my children. Next week when I move into our new apartment and my family arrives from Australia, we will all visit the municipal office building to register my change of address and add my family’s names to the local records.

Understanding this system of local administration is somewhat complicated by the fact that while most of the prefectural-level administrative units are referred to as prefectures (県 ken), there are some exceptional administrative units differentiated by the use of other suffixes. These include the single administrative unit that covers the island of Hokkaidō, which is the only ‘dō’ (道) as well as the three special urban prefectures Kyoto-fu, Osaka-fu and Tokyo-to. Tokyo, the site of the national capital and an exceptional urban region in many ways is designated with the suffix ‘to’ (都), a character that can mean imperial capital but today is generally translated as metropolis, as it is, for example, on the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s own website.

I have included this somewhat lengthy explanation of the structure of local government because I often struggle to explain that when I say I am living in Tokyo, I really mean the Tokyo Metropolis, far to the west of what most would consider to be Tokyo proper. Tokyo is made up of two broadly defined geographical areas: a ‘central’ area that extends west from the shores of Tokyo Bay to the westernmost wards of Nerima, Suginami and Setagaya; and the much larger Tama area, which stretches much further to the west (there are actually a number of remote islands stretching far to the southeast of Tokyo Bay that are also administratively part of the metropolis but I will not consider these here).

Tokyo Metropolis Map

Map of the Tokyo Metropolis, the purple areas on the right are the central twenty-three wards while the remainder of the coloured municipalities constitute the Tama area.

Administratively the Tokyo Metropolis, like all prefectural-level bodies, is further divided into a number of local municipalities. The ‘central’ area consists of twenty-three special administrative wards which are located in the eastern part of the metropolitan boundaries. This is where some nine million of Tokyo’s thirteen million residents make their home. According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government website, population density in the twenty-three-ward area is 14,746 people per square kilometre. This area is ‘central’ in terms of its function and population density but geographically it occupies the eastern extremity of a metropolis that stretches ninety kilometres from Tokyo Bay in the east to the mountains of Okutama in the west. The Tama region is made up of the vast bulk of this land area lying outside of the twenty-three wards. Tama is much less densely populated than central Tokyo, with 4.22 million people making their home in an area of 1,160 square kilometres, giving a density of 3,640 per square kilometre. It is governed by 30 separate municipalities (26 cities, 3 towns and 1 village) and is home to approximately four million people. Many parts of Tama are still quite rural and the district hosts 60 per cent of Tokyo’s forests and 75 per cent of its agricultural land.

It is in this district, with its ample forests and fields, that property developers and administrators began in the early twentieth century look for land to house the metropolis’s growing population. The municipality which is now known as Kunitachi is the result of one such scheme, begun in the 1920s, to develop uncultivated land in the north of what was then Yaho village, with the vision of creating a new, orderly city of education. At the beginning of the Meiji period (1868), the village of Yaho consisted of just 400 households scattered along the old Tokugawaera Kōshūkaidō (甲州街道), one of the five major roads which connected Edo with the feudal domains. This route led to the domain then known as Kainokuni (甲斐国), which was known by the abbreviated name of Kōshū (甲州), and went on to connect with the Nakasendō (中山道), another one of the five great roads, at Shimosuwa-shuku (下諏訪宿). To the north of Yaho village lay a great undeveloped piece of uninhabited and thickly forested land where the villagers foraged for fertiliser and timber fuel. In 1899 the Kōbu Railway (today’s JR Chūō line) was extended from Shinjuku to Tachikawa through the northern extremity of this forest, but at that time it still had no impact on the life of the villagers.

‘Shimizu no tateba’, from Edo meijo zukai (Collection of famous places of Edo), 1836

A rest place on the Kōshū Kaido near the Yaho Tenmangu Shrine

It was not until after the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923 that the Hakone Toichi Kaihatsu Corporation, which was already in the midst of a major development project in neighbouring Kodaira, put forward a plan to develop the forested northern part of Yaho village and build a university town (学園都市) based around the Tokyo University of Commerce. The university was formerly based in the Kanda-Hitotsubashi area in Chiyoda in central Tokyo but was destroyed during the earthquake. The developer began by purchasing 100 hectares of land in northern Yaho in 1925. The following year a railway station named Kunitachi was built on the existing Kōbu Railway line. The company went on to implement an ambitious town plan featuring a great rotunda constructed in front of the Kunitachi railway station from which a grand central avenue and two other main roads radiated out at forty-five degree angles. Over these three main radials was overlaid a grid of smaller roads and the land was divided into lots of 200 tsubo (approximately 662 metres), which were offered for sale as part of this new subdivision known as Kunitachi Daigaku-chō (Kunitachi university town).

Two images of early Kunitachi. The one of the left shows the original layout for the subdivision with few lots yet taken up (1924). The one on the right shows Kunitachi College of Music at the time of its establishment (1926).

The original vision of Kunitachi as a university town was realised when the  Conservatory of Music relocated to the area in 1926 (where it was renamed the Kunitachi College of Music) followed quickly by the Tokyo University of Commerce (now Hitotsubashi University) which was built between 1927 and 1930. In 1930 the Nanbu Railway (today’s JR Nanbu line) added a second railway station to the village when it established the Yaho railway station midway between the new university town and the old Kōshū Kaidō road.

Early photograph of Yaho Railway station displayed in a shop near the current station.

This historical pattern of development remains clearly visible in the layout of contemporary Kunitachi’s streets. In this picture, a photograph of a 1930 map I snapped in a shop near Yaho railway station, you can clearly see how the jumbled knot of laneways of the former villages of Yaho and Aoyagi that spread out along the Kōshū Kaidō and down through the fertile river flats to the Tama River (at the bottom of the picture) give way to the neatly planned grid of the new town.

Old Map of Yaho,

Despite its exotic town plan, supposedly inspired by the European city of Bern, the slump that followed the 1930 economic crisis meant that sales of lots in the new town were initially quite slow. The population of the area in 1920 was 2,611 but by 1940, more than ten years after completion of the new development, it had not yet doubled in size and stood at just 4,716. Only after the war did the municipality’s population increase significantly, reaching 32,609 by 1960. Today the population of Kunitachi has more than doubled again with some 75,723 living in an area of 8.15 square kilometres, giving the city a population density of 9,291.17 people per square kilometre. While still cramped by Australian standards, a comparison with Shinjuku ward in central Tokyo gives a sense of the comparative openness of Kunitachi. Shinjuku’s population of 342,297 lives in an area of 18.22 sqm, giving a population density of 18,786 per sqm, more than double that of Kunitachi.

Returning to the earlier discussion of local administration, the exact boundaries and functions of local government in Japan have changed throughout the modern period and the local administration of what is today Kunitachi has been affected by these changes as well as by the significant growth in its population following the end of the Asia-Pacific War. At the time of the Meiji restoration the land that is now Kunitachi stood within what was then the Tama gun (郡, roughly equivalent to an American county or an Australian shire). Following the Great Meiji Consolidation of 1888–1889, when the central government reduced the number of recognised municipalities by about one fifth from 71, 314 to 15,859, the village of Yaho was created out of the merger of two smaller villages and placed under the administration of Kitatama gun. Thanks to the establishment of the Kōbu Railway’s Kunitachi railway station, the district around the station became known as Kunitachi. The origins of this name, however, are disappointingly mundane. Having been established midway between the existing railway stations of Kokubunji (分寺) and Tachikawa (川), Kunitachi (国立) station was named simply by taking the first kanji character from each of the neighbouring stations. In 1943, Kunitachi was also recognised as the name for the district (大字, ōaza) within the village of Yaho which was located near the Kunitachi railway station. Then finally in 1951 the village of Yaho was itself renamed Kunitachi and its status was upgraded from that of a village to a town (町 chō). Its growing population saw Kunitachi’s upgraded once again to become a city in its own right in 1967 and has remained an independent municipal body ever since. The many chapters in Kunitachi’s story which follow on from its original development in the 1920s will form the basis of future posts.


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