Governor Takeshi Onaga and the US Bases in Okinawa: The Role of Okinawan Identity in Local Politics

Ms  Monica  Flint4

4University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

The longstanding debate concerning the US base presence in Okinawa has polarised many and garnered significant attention in scholarship and the media. Okinawa dispels widespread narratives of Japanese cultural and ethnic homogeneity and presents an interesting example of plural and incongruent Future Asias within Japan. Using a qualitative approach, the paper analyses the political rhetoric of the late Takeshi Onaga (Governor of Okinawa from December 2014 to August 2018). The paper finds that Onaga used an essentialist notion of Okinawan cultural identity and history in order to further an anti-base agenda. It contributes a new perspective to the literature on US bases in Okinawa by shedding light on the convergence of representations of contemporary Okinawan identity, ethnicity and history in the local Okinawan political debate. Further, in drawing on examples from Onaga’s Twitter and YouTube accounts, the paper responds to the scarcity of literature on the relationship between social media and politics in Japan.



Tracing Media Dynamics of Post-3.11 Japan: Towards an Inter-media Society

Ms  Sonja  Petrovic3

3University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

This presentation uses the case study of the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster of 2011 (known collectively as the 3.11 disaster) to examine shifts and dynamics in the contemporary Japanese media landscape. In the wake of disruption caused by the 3.11 disaster, live broadcasts and emotional discourses contributed to the mobilisation of collective solidarities. Social media introduced new forms of interaction among individuals which transcended temporal and spatial barriers, challenging the role of traditional mass media. Based on in-depth interviews and social media data from Japan, my study suggests that following 3.11, Japanese media users moved from using traditional mass media as their sole source of news to a personalised, inter-media environment, and that this supported the emergence of affective communities. The intensified sense of communal belonging facilitated the practice of seeking and evaluating information and media credibility, and these inter-media practices have become more embedded in Japanese society since 3.11. Analysing the opportunities and challenges that social media create in the wake of disaster and understanding the dynamics of media use across a range of platforms may allow us to predict how Japanese media users will utilise new communication tools to cope with future disasters.



Perceptions of Refugees and their Communities in Japan

Mr Atsushi Yamagata2

2University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia

As of the end of 2018, there were 25.9 million documented refugees across the globe, and most of them were hosted by developing countries. Despite expectations that developed countries should accept more refugees, Japan has been reluctant. In 2018, only 42 people were recognised as refugees in Japan out of 10,493 asylum applications. To explore the rationales behind Japan’s attitude toward refugees, in this paper I focus on perceptions of refugees and their communities of origin in Japan. In the 1970s, Japan decided to accept Indochinese refugees in the aftermath of the Indochina War and more than 10,000 Indochinese refugees were accepted between 1978 and 2005. Except for these Indochinese refugees, though, Japan has almost closed its borders to refugees. In this paper I look at discourses about refugees and their communities in various publications from the 1970s and discuss how refugees and their communities have been perceived in Japan. By contrasting media representations of Indochinese refugees accepted in the 1970s with more recent media representations of asylum seekers and their communities of origin, I will consider how the perceptions of refugees and their communities have been formed, and their implications for Japan’s future relationship with refugees and asylum seekers.



New Voices in Japanese Studies

Dr Alexander Brown1, Mr Atsushi Yamagata2, Ms  Sonja  Petrovic3, Ms  Monica  Flint4

1Japan Women’s University, Tokyo, Japan, 2University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia, 3University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, 4University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia


This panel highlights the work of early-career researchers from the journal New Voices in Japanese Studies. Each panellist considers the future shape of Japan and Japanese society, considering how ideas of cultural identity, local identity and community have been changing in recent times through case studies of asylum seeker intakes, disaster-related social media usage, and local political campaigns in Japan’s subtropical Okinawan islands. All three panellists analyse different aspects of the rapidly evolving media landscape, shedding light on the way that broad structural changes are reflected in media coverage and new media practices. Each paper contributes to the questioning of modern ‘traditions’ and challenges conceptions of an ideologically and culturally homogenous Japan. The panel will be chaired by the current New Voices in Japanese Studies Guest Editor, and the presenters’ attendance is supported by the journal’s New Voices Scholar program.

Enabling Access: Disability, Mobility and Inclusion in Contemporary Singapore

Mr Kuansong Victor Zhuang1,2

1Macquarie University, Macquarie Park, Australia, 2University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, United States of America

The increased affirmation of disability as a valid ontological identity has seen increased mobility of disabled bodies, as they move from the excluded to be folded into life. As disabled bodies are increasingly visible in their movements through society, how can we understand their inclusion within life? In this paper, I examine the mobility of disabled bodies in Singapore around contestations of accessibility and inclusivity in the material and economic spheres. Central to my examination is the Enabling Village, an inclusive community space launched in December 2015. The transformation of space in the Village is reflective of the provision of minimum standards of access with the introduction of an Accessibility Code in 1990 as well as larger societal changes towards inclusion in other areas of society such as employment and play. In centering disability and mobility as the key analytics of the work, I question the meanings of accessibility vis-a-vis the larger questions of inclusion and diversity in Singapore and around the world. What does access do to disabled bodies? How does access enable the inclusion of disabled people? What kinds of disabled bodies are included? What types of inclusion(s) and future(s) are foretold in this use of access?


Kuansong Victor, Zhuang is a PhD candidate in Disability Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Macquarie University. His work centers on the contemporary claims to include the disabled within life in Singapore and examines the biopolitics of inclusion through a reading of various cultural texts.

Sedentary Life, Nomadic Texts: A Study of the Chinese Intertexts in the Japanese Heian Women’s Writings

Dr Jindan Ni1

1RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

In his preface launching Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, Michel Foucault writes passionately that: “Prefer what is positive and multiple: difference over uniformity, flows over unities, mobile arrangements over systems. Believe that what is productive is not sedentary but nomadic.” For Foucault, it is the nomadism, the mobility, the heterogeneity that enrich the productions in the humanistic domain. Allying myself with Foucault, this paper intends to bring the literary mobility in premodern East Asia under the spotlight by examining the literary interrelations between the Japanese Heian (794-1185) women’s writings and the Chinese texts. For a very long period, the Japanese national literature studies have encouraged generations of scholars and readers to read the Heian women’s writings as “purely Japanese,” which represent the essence of Japan. This study attempts to challenge this mode of “national literature,” focusing on the impact of Chinese texts to reveal the more heterogeneous features of Heian women’s writings. Drawing on the theories of contemporary transnational literary studies, this paper will show how the Chinese texts metaphorically mobilised Heian women’s sedentary life and how these women writers tactfully expanded their literary creation beyond the indigenous culture and eventually achieved the accomplishment both at home and its beyond.


Dr. Jindan Ni is a lecturer of Chinese Studies at RMIT university, Australia. She holds a PhD from La Trobe University. Her research interest lies in the dialogic relationships between Chinese and Japanese literature, as well as comparative literature. She has published academic papers in Japanese literature and history. She is also an active translator who has translated books from Japanese and English to Chinese.

Comparing Frameworks and Cultural Influences of Sustainable Fashion Governance for the Textile Supply Chain in China and Australia

Dr Dashi Zhang1

1University Of Melbourne, Australia

This project examines ethically sustainable business and communicative practices in the fashion industry and develops a comparative framework with qualitative research methods (secondary research and interviews) to analyse practices in China and Australia. It will generate new knowledge about ethical fashion governance and cultural influences in the two countries, and explore how the governments engage with the public in the process. It will specifically focus on textile supply chains. Expected outcomes include enhanced capacity to build institutional/disciplinary collaborations between the business and communication schools in Australia and China and the development of a grounded theory of sustainable fashion governance and government-publics relationships. The project not only gives a holistic view of sustainable fashion governance in two countries, but also fills the gap of examining and understanding cultural influences on the process and (communicative) government engagement with the public.


Dr. Dashi Zhang holds a Ph.D. (RMIT), MPhil (Hong Kong) in Communication, and an M. A. from California State University, Los Angeles. Her research interests include corporate social responsibility, Chinese culture, and public relations and was awarded the Prime Minister’s Australia Asia. She has published two monographs on CSR and PR in China.

Embodiment as A Conceptual Framework for Studying the Intersection of Aging and Migration in Asia

Ms Michelle Ong1

1University of the Philippines Dept. of Psychology, Quezon City, Philippines

Migration and ageing are both phenomena that are understood in the wider literature as being shaped by a global shift to neoliberal ethics, by sexism, and by ageism. These social-political forces produce conditions that can disadvantage migrants, women, and older people. In Asia, where both phenomena have long been objects of concern, there is a growing need for the intersection of migration and ageing to be studied in the context of dramatic socio-economic and political differences and change among and within countries.

This presentation argues that embodiment, which is taken to include “both the subjective meanings of the lived experience of the body for particular individuals and how those subjective meanings are modified by particular social and cultural contexts” (Paulson & Willig, 2008, p. 107), is a powerful concept for examining the binaries that define social scientific debates and divisions: mind and body, structure and agency, society and individual, macro and micro, social and biological, material and discursive. Using the case of older migrant women from the Philippines, I will illustrate how the embodiment of “successful ageing” reflects dominant discourses around gender, age, and migrant status and have implications for subjectivity and the material body.


Michelle G. Ong teaches at the University of the Philippines CSSP Dept. of Psychology. She earned her PhD from the University of Auckland, where she did research on Filipino migrants’ embodiment of ageing in New Zealand. Her research interests include: indigenous Filipino psychology (Sikolohiyang Pilipino), migration, ageing, and children’s rights

Governing through Women: Ethics and Politics of Disaster Reconstruction in the Philippines

Ms Kaira Zoe Alburo-Canete2

2University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

This paper examines the reconstruction of post-Yolanda Tacloban City from a feminist standpoint. I argue that ‘building back better’ from disaster is essentially enmeshed in a citizenship project that instills within disaster-affected communities the responsibility to be resilient. The inculcation of this ethic of responsibility evidently plays out within the micro-moral domains of community life: the body, home, community, and local environs.  While the idea of ‘governing through community’ has been articulated as a novel mode of governing in recent years, I highlight how the domains through which post-disaster governance operates are also fundamentally feminised spaces. With women as critical drivers of community recovery, as my research in Tacloban shows, I argue that the ‘responsibilisation of resilience’ is achieved not simply by ‘governing through community’ as evident in community-focused interventions delivered by both state and non-state actors. More specifically this is accomplished by ‘governing through women’. Here, I demonstrate how state-initiated women’s organising, participation, and ‘self-enhancement’ programs serve to weave together individual responsibility, community-building, and ‘moral’ citizenship in the pursuit of hegemonic interpretations of resilience.  By analysing how women qualify, negotiate, and challenge such post-disaster citizenship project, I propose a reconceptualisation of resilience based on a feminist ethics of care.


Kaira Zoe Canete is a PhD Candidate at the School of Social Sciences of the University of New South Wales. Her doctoral dissertation examines disaster recovery and reconstruction from the standpoint of women. She is a recipient of an Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship which supports her studies in Australia.

The Archaeology of Yolanda: Foucault and Reconstructing the Disaster

Mr. Wendyl Luna2

2University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

In this paper, I provide a view of Typhoon Yolanda through the lens of Foucauldian archaeology. I argue that considering Yolanda less as a ‘document’ to be deciphered but as a ‘monument’ to be described not only gives a fresh outlook on the devastating super typhoon but also shows that its historico-critical reconstruction is possible. Drawing on Foucault’s notion of archaeology that seeks neither to ‘memorise’ nor impute meaning on documents, such a reconstruction undertakes an ‘archival work’ that describes Yolanda by critiquing whenever possible the relationships between some of its elements—for example, how the displaced, despite being disconnected from their homes, can creatively conduct their lives. The task of the historian-critic, then, is to pay heed to these creative (counter-)conducts undertaken in relation to disaster governance. It is hoped that, with the archaeology of Yolanda, we may not only remember it for the devastating storm surges that claimed thousands of lives but, more importantly, engage with it as that through which we address contemporary issues.


Wendyl Luna is currently undertaking his PhD (Philosophy) at UNSW in Sydney, Australia. His research interests lie primarily in Continental Philosophy, particularly the philosophies of Immanuel Kant and Michel Foucault. His PhD thesis examines Foucault’s reading of Kant.



The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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