Event — IIAS Lunch Lecture

Beyond empire: Okinawa and the politics of anti-military bases in Japan

Lunch Lecture by Carmina Untalan, Research Fellow at IIAS.

This lecture takes place in the IIAS conference room from 11:00-12:00 a.m. Amsterdam Time (CET); it will not be streamed or recorded. Please register before 20 March to secure lunch. All welcome!

The Lecture

In this talk, Carmina Untalan will present her current research on writing about anti-military base protests in Okinawa. In recounting her conversations with protesters in Okinawa, she will explore the importance of incorporating reflexivity in research to avert typecasting anti-military bases protesters in terms of “anti-Americanism”. The talk aims to explore the various motivations behind base politics in Okinawa. It also examines the tendency of disciplinary academic writing methods to obscure these complexities. 

Much of what is written about American military bases takes two opposing forms. On the one hand, they are seen as necessary and efficient security facilities to defend the “international liberal order”. On the other, they are considered instruments of American imperialism that wreak havoc in local host communities. However, Untalan realized from her conversations with anti-military base protesters in Okinawa that such framing maintains an American-centric perspective. It obfuscates the protesters’ agential capacities to transform these bases into sites of struggle where they push policy agenda that transcends critique against the United States. Through narrating the stories of four Okinawans and one Tokyoite, each ascribing different meanings to the base movements, Untalan will explore how a reflexive approach could help animate the agencies that a scholarly pursuit of proving a single, linear argument, in this case, either supportive or critical of American’s empire of bases, would otherwise overlook.  She shows that notwithstanding the huge role the US play in their plight, Okinawans’ history and agencies are irreducible to the logic of American imperialism.

As part of a collective project on writing and reflexivity in international relations, Untalan also explores how can writing become a tool for reflexively conveying the contingencies researchers encounter without turning them into puzzles that needed to be solved.

The Speaker

Carmina Yu Untalan holds a PhD in International Politics from Osaka University. She is currently a research fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) where she researches on Okinawa and Muslim Mindanao’s significance to American hegemony in the Pacific. Her research areas include postcolonial international relations, US-Japan, and US-Philippine relations and democracy.


Registration is required as seating is limited, and we must order lunch.
Please register before Monday, 20 March, to secure your lunch.