Beyond the Barricades: The Possibilities and Pitfalls of the Campus-Based New Left in Japan

Sunday, January 7, 2018: 9:40 AM
Hampton Room (Omni Shoreham)
Chelsea Szendi Schieder, Meiji University
In the 1960s in Japan, university campuses became important sites for activist organizing and action. Students launched critiques of US foreign policy and Japanese authorities, which included a consideration of the role of the university as a research institution and training grounds for the growing managerial class. The impact of the protests and occupations of students activists were particularly disruptive in a nation with a rapidly expanding university population: by 1963 Japan was third in the world in number of universities (behind only the US and the USSR) and campus disruptions closed down almost half of these in one month in 1969 alone. In this paper I’ll discuss how leftist student activists understood their efforts to occupy campuses spaces as an activity that disrupted larger, even geopolitical, systems of oppression. At the same time I’ll consider how newly integrated female students, allowed to learn alongside young men at formerly all-male educational institutions after WWII, met familiar challenges in the ostensibly radically re-imagined spaces of the “barricades.” Drawing on the cases of women who eventually turned away from “coed” activism toward a women-only movement, I’ll discuss the difficulties young women faced in pursuing not only a truly equal education, but also in participating in activism that ignored “women’s issues” in the name of an ostensibly more liberatory universal revolution at higher educational institutions.