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Sōteigai: Alternative Politics and Academic Intervention after 3.11 - workshop


Monday 17 September 2012
13.00 - 20.00
Leiden University Campus The Hague
Schouwburgstraat 2, The Hague
room A2.05
view map
Martin Roth (Leiden University, The Netherlands)
PhD student Beyond Utopia project, LUC The Hague teaching fellow

Maja Vodopivec (Leiden University, The Netherlands)
PostDoc researcher at MEARC, LUC The Hague teaching fellow
Further info
- open to public (you can also attend only part of the workshop)
- no attendance fee
- workshop programme in pdf
- paper abstracts in pdf
- poster in pdf

Workshop outline

images of post-3.11 street protests in Japan
(courtesy of Maja Vodopivec)
The events of March 11, 2011, as well as the ongoing nuclear crisis that followed them, have turned techno-dystopian nightmares else only known from science fiction literature, comics or film, into reality in Japan. This has forced people around the world to reflect on and challenge (or affirm) society’s neo-liberalist, capitalist status quo, far beyond political, economic, and public responses to the dangers and risks nuclear power which the breakdown of Fukushima I once again brought to attention. The suddenness, scale, and invisibility that marks the nuclear crisis in Japan suggests that the term sōteigai (unimaginable, unforeseen, unexpected), which was frequently used in official statements to deflect responsibility in the days and weeks after the nuclear reactor accident, seems to relate to post-3.11 Japan in a much broader sense: apart from its association with a (wide-spread) failure or reluctance to recognize the risks related to nuclear power and the difficulty to imagine the present situation, it also points towards the unexpected public spheres, alternative politics, and networks of knowledge that have evolved in Japan in response to the current situation and official politics.

The overall picture and the severity and permanence of radioactive contamination suggest that there is not much room for hope for A Paradise Built in Hell and its extraordinary communities activist Rebecca Solnit envisions. Nevertheless, a closer look shows that public re-actions to the disaster—and to governmental politics dealing with it—have led to a revival and reshaping of political culture of participation and protest, with considerable numbers of people of all ages and backgrounds publicly expressing a diverse opinions and critique. A frequent demonstrator himself, Japanese philosopher Kōjin Karatani observes that this ongoing process has contributed to creating a society in which demonstrating and other ways of public expression may once again become accepted as common means of political expression.

However, these new developments and alternative politics have to be understood in the context of the ongoing nuclear threat and the many unsolved problems caused by the earthquake and the tsunami, but also against the background of rigid structures that continue to exist and seem to endure even the latest demonstrations against the reactivation of nuclear power plants, with several hundreds of thousands of participants in front of the parliament in Tokyo. Any attempt to gain insight into these developments and the current situation has to look at the relation between actors, both in the past and today, including academics around the world, in particular those concerned with Japan, both as political participants and as experts in their respective fields.

Aim of the workshop

This event will try to give some insight into the latest developments in Japan, its actors and their relation, and reflect on the current situation, Far from offering answers to an ongoing, complex process, this event hopes to discuss a series of (possible) political responses to the crisis in society and academia, thereby linking Chris Goto-Jones’ VICI project 'Beyond Utopia' to actual political developments in its focused area.
The event will host presenters with diverse backgrounds, who have all personally experienced 3.11 and participated in the new-born world-wide activism against the nuclear power. Commiting to the idea of media interventions aimed at in the VICI project, it will further include a screening of the documentary film Radioactivists by German film makers Julia Leser and Clarissa Seidel.

The event is aimed at a diverse audience: stimulating academic discourse and offering an insight into the current situation of political protest in Japan. Reaching beyond academic interest, it takes a central post 3.11 intuition to bridge the often lamented academia-practice gap seriously.

The emerging discussion will be made accessible in the not too distant future.

Workshop timetable

13.00 - 13.15
ROTH, Martin
13.15 - 14.00
YANG, Manuel
14.00 - 14.45

coffee break

15.15 - 16.00
16.00- 16.45


17.00- 18.15
Screening “RadioActivists
18.15 -
Discussion, Q&A
From Catastrophe to Hydrangea Revolution
Society, nature and technology in post-3.11 Japan – new networks born in translating science fiction into reality

“Post-Fukushima”-Japan? Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will
Molecular politics of embodiment at the Kantei-mae protests
The Beyond Utopia project is based at Leiden University's Institute for Area Studies and is made possible through the generosity and support of:
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