Ainu, Okinawa and Indigeneity: Re-thinking Okinawan Indigeneity

Part of the Ainu, Okinawa and Indigeneity Series.

Monday, March 29, 5-6pm
Re-thinking Okinawan Indigeneity: Articulation and Activism
Dr. Megumi Chibana, Kanagawa University

Webinar format (audience not visible; questions welcome via Q&A).


This lecture offers a new way of thinking about Indigeneity through the examination of land politics in Okinawa. In the western settler societies, the theorization of settler colonialism as a land acquisition project has played an influential role in conceptualizing colonialism and Indigeneity. Then, how should Indigenous identity formations and politics in the Asian context be understood?

Since 1996, activists and activist scholars from Okinawa have been articulating Indigeneity at the United Nations, claiming their right to self-determination under international law. Pressured by both Japanese and American empires, homegrown Okinawan cultural, economic, and political self-determination efforts have long been trivialized and even ignored outright. The recent wave of globalization helped galvanized modern Okinawan self-identity in line with the global indigenous movement. Following Chadwick Allen’s (Trans-Indigenous 2012) call to globalize understandings of Indigenous and cultural politics, this talk explores and recognizes Okinawan Indigeneity in transnational approaches to imperialism, colonialism, and the ongoing (post)colonial situations. I relate to stories of the Okinawan repossession and reclaiming of the land from their designation as Japanese (and later US) military airstrips. Viewing land politics through the lens of Indigenous organizing opens a new vantage point, recognizing the everyday agency of Okinawans in sculpting their own self-determination.

Monday, March 29, 2021 5-6PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Monday, March 29, 2021 8-9PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Tuesday, March 30, 2021 9-10AM in Japan Time


About the Speaker

Photo: Courtesy of Megumi Chibana

Megumi Chibana is an Uchinānchu scholar who was born and raised in Okinawa. She holds a Ph.D. in political science with a specialization in indigenous politics from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. She currently works as an Assistant Professor at Kanagawa University in Japan with a focus on liberal arts education. Her research interests revolve around Indigenous politics in Okinawa, trans-Indigenous solidarity and activism in the Asia-Pacific, and decolonial political geography. Her recent publications include: Practicing Decolonial Political Geography: Island Perspectives on Neocolonialism and the China Threat Discourse (Political Geography, 2021); Resurgents Create a Moral Landscape: Indigenous Resurgence and Everyday Practices of Farming in Okinawa (Humanities, 2020); and An Artful Way of Making Indigenous Space (Verge: Studies in Global Asias, 2018).