Trans-imperial Anarchism: Cooperatist Communitarian Thought and Practice in Imperial Japan, 192030

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 2:10 PM
Grant Park Parlor (Palmer House Hilton)
Robert Kramm, University of Hong Kong
Anarchist theory and practice have global aims of liberation. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, anarchism furnished a comprehensive critique and analysis of state rule, capitalism and imperialism, and offered alternative models of being in contrast to established regimes of power. As recent research has demonstrated, in many European and extra-European countries anarchist thought and practice was a modern and appealing intervention, also in anti-colonial struggles of liberations, often organized across national and imperial borders. Yet, how does anarchism play out in an imperial formation, in which anarchists are in a double bind situation of being simultaneously subjugated to an imperial state and discriminated against by Western hegemony, but simultaneously positioned themselves within a non-white imperial center?

This paper discusses cooperatist communitarian thought and practice in 1920s/1930s imperial Japan. It analyzes how Japanese anarchists mediated intellectual knowledge and revolutionary experiences from abroad—Europe, South and Southeast Asia—and transferred it to the East Asian context. It will demonstrate anarchists’ engagement in revolutionary theory and practice challenging the imperial state, but also the strong effects of a Western epistemological matrix in which European thought claims universality as the only point of reference to give authority to any kind of progressive, rational thinking. Such epistemic hierarchization was embedded into and correlated with racial hierarchies between the West and the non-Western world. Yet such hierarchies also existed within Asia and Japanese anarchists were confronted with the situation of colonialism, oppression and exploitation in the Japanese empire. The tension between West and non-West that emerged in Japanese anarchists’ critical reading of Western theory, as well as Japanese anarchists strategies and their discussion of non-Western anarchist and other radical cooperatist communitarian concepts are at the center of this paper.

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