Decolonizing Okinawa: Social Science, Agriculture, and US Militarism, 1945-1972
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“Decolonizing Okinawa” destabilizes the alleged opposition of colonialism to nationalism to reconceptualize the assertion of radical anticolonial politics. It argues that the US military exploited the popular desire for ethnic self-determination to naturalize its presence and reframes anti-military mobilizations as the unraveling of military-imposed frameworks. Examining the records of the US Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands (USCAR) and the Government of the Ryukyu Islands (GRI), the dissertation shows how US Occupation officials drew from progressive social scientific studies promising to foster self-determination. Such modernization theories tied the possibility of advancement to economic development, and so USCAR and GRI authorities set to reforming Okinawa’s agricultural economy, which both said was distinct to the island culture but also the root cause of backwardness. Ensuing USCAR and GRI collaborations aimed to make concrete an abstract entity called “the economy” where Okinawans freely traded with similar races in the Far East, but this arrangement only naturalized the US military presence. It re-presented the US military as a benign trade partner, reoriented Okinawan production to meet US military needs, and initiated surveillance efforts guaranteeing Okinawan compliance to military objectives. Local attempts to recover a united ethnic identity, therefore, replicated USCAR and GRI logics to set off calls for more reforms that further entrenched the military presence. Anticolonial mobilizations, on the other hand, broke free of USCAR and GRI social scientific thinking. This dissertation shows how protestors refuted the idea that economic evolution gave rise to ethnic consciousness to assert their own, unprecedented understandings of democracy in moments of intense politicization.
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