Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Components of Okinawa's Movement

Environmental Justice and Indigenous Rights

Nonviolent environmental justice movements and struggles for indigenous rights, two important components of Okinawa’s movement to expunge the American military from their land, have historically been closely entwined (Hibbard et al., 2008). Indigenous people are often characterized by a status as a national minority with no centralized institutions and a worldview that “includes a custodial and nonmaterialist attitude to the land and natural resources” (Burrowes, 1996, p. 138). This relationship between indigenous people and their land frequently has a spiritual dimension, serves as a source of cultural identity, and allows the creation of sustainable management of complex ecological systems if left unimpeded (Zunes et al., 1999; Burrowes, 1996). Since the issue of the American military presence in Okinawa is commonly spearheaded by indigenous people and contains many elements of environmental degradation and species loss, understanding Okinawa’s nonviolent anti-military movement within the context of an environmental justice and indigenous rights movement is constructive.

Feminism and nonviolence

Another useful framework for understanding Okinawa’s anti-base movement is in relation to the feminist perspective of nonviolence, since many of the movement’s organizations are run by women and many of the issues, like sexual violence, disproportionately impact women in the community. There is some evidence that empowerment of women is associated with a “reduced tendency to engage in armed conflict” (Cortright, 2006, p. 186). Moreover, the collective leadership style of feminist organizations, in which “power begins in the private share of social relationships and thus is not conceptualized as zero-sum but as limitless and collective,” is in itself a form of alternative institution and a direct threat to the power system established by military rule (Stall & Stoecker, 2007, p. 203). Particularly in military conflicts, women are both relied on and unequally burdened with the violence and impact of conflict (Bunch, 2004). Military societies commonly subordinate women and legitimize the use of women as “sexual machinery in order to achieve the goals of the nation” (Takazato, 1996, p. 136). In Okinawa, this has resulted in hundreds of reported rapes (often of children) and a large prostitution industry.

Bunch, C. (2004). Feminism, Peace, Human Rights and Human Society. Feminist Politics, Activism and Vision, 76-85. L. Ricciutelli, A. Miles, & M. H. McFadden (Ed.), Toronto: Inanna Publications and Education Inc.
Burrowes, R, J. (1996). The Strategy of Nonviolent Defense A Gandhian Approach. New York: State University of New York Press.
Cortright, D. (2006). Gandhi and Beyond: Nonviolence for an Age of Terrorism. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers.
Hibbard, M., Lane, M, B., & Rasmussen, K. (2008). The Split Personality of Planning: Indigenous Peoples and Planning for Land and Resource Management. Journal of Planning Literature, 23, 136-151. Retrieved April 28, 2009. from Ebsco Electronic Journal Service.
Stall, S., & Stoecker, R. (2007). Toward a Gender Analysis of Community Organizing Models: Liminality and the Intersection of Spheres. Community Organizing and Community Building for Health, 196-217. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.
Zunes, S., Kurtz, L, R., & Asher, S, B. (2007). Nonviolent Social Movements: A Geographical Perspective. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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