CSUS Graduate Student Workshop
The Infrastructural Temporality of Military Construction in U.S.-Occupied Okinawa with Sabrina Teng-io Chung
March 9, 2023 | 4:00PM - 5:30PM|
1 Devonshire Place, Toronto, ON, M5S 3K7
In recent years, the local opposition against the construction of a new U.S. military base in Okinawa, the southernmost prefecture of Japan, has generated new attention in the field of Asian studies, Asian American studies, and American studies. Scholars and activists have sought to situate the struggles surrounding Okinawa’s base problems within comparative and relational frameworks, revealing the violent entanglements between American and Japanese settler colonial formations, militarism, and capitalism, while illuminating the ways by which decolonizing nations and peoples could have come into solidarity with each other.
This presentation aims to contribute to this scholarship by bringing in the perspective of critical infrastructure studies to examine the beginning phase of military construction in U.S.-occupied Okinawa, spanning from 1945 to 1952. Existing historiographical accounts on this phase of military construction have centered on how a shift in American policymakers’ perception of Okinawa’s strategic importance during heightened military tensions in Asia in the late 1940s and early 1950s had contributed to the construction of permanent military facilities in Okinawa. Drawing on sources from the views of military engineers surrounding the 1950 “Okinawa construction program” to survey reports on typhoon damages of U.S. military installations on Okinawa, this presentation challenges historical accounts that see Okinawa’s incorporation into the U.S. military network of bases as geopolitically inevitable.
Sabrina Teng-io Chung argue for an infrastructural reading of the U.S. militarization of Okinawa that exposes the colonial anxiety, insecurity, and instability surrounding the building of permanent military facilities. This infrastructural reading aims to demonstrate that what is considered “permanent” in the U.S. military construction programs is always already characterized by a sense of abandonment and decay, contingency and precarity. Ultimately, this reading practice calls for new ways of imagining otherwise the temporalities and relationalities made possible by American and Japanese imperial formations across the Pacific.
Sabrina Teng-io Chung is a Ph.D. candidate in East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. Her dissertation examines the U.S. militarization of post-reversion Okinawa through the lens of infrastructure and urban redevelopment. Her research interests include transpacific studies, inter-Asia cultural studies, critical infrastructure studies, and Cold War historiography. Her publication has appeared on the online edition of Society and Space. She has also translated investigative reporting articles on the pandemic and public space, social movements, and international student migration from independent Chinese-language news outlets including The Reporter and Initium Media.
Sponsored by the Centre for the Study of the United States.