Configurations of Hope: Youth Activism in Asia
Shi-diing Liu, Associate Professor, Department of Communications, University of Macau
Nila Ayu Utami, Lecturer, Department of English, Universitas Indonesia
Vivian Shaw, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Texas, Austin/Visiting Researcher, Sophia University, Tokyo
Chih-ming Wang (Academia Sinica)
Brief Introduction to Panelists:
Shih-Diing Liu (email@example.com) is Associate Professor of the Department of Communiations at the University of Macau.
Vivian Shaw (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the Univesity of Texas, Austin. She is also a Urban Ethnography Lab Graduate Fellow; an assistant instructor at UT; and a visiting scholar at Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan. Her research interests are in the areas of race & ethnicity and gender, focusing especially on these issues in science/technology, culture, and human rights. Her dissertation, "Post-disaster Citizenship: The Politics of Race, Belonging, and Activism after Fukushima" involves an ethnographic study of anti-nuclear and anti-racism social movement networks in Tokyo and Osaka, capturing a yet unexplored dimension of the 2011 disaster by examining how the political crisis of nuclear disaster has set the stage for emerging anti-racism politics.
Nila Ayu Utami (email@example.com) received her M.A. from the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies International Program at National Chiao-Tung University, Hsinchu, Taiwan, and is currently a lecturer of English in Universitas Indonesia. She will start her Ph.D. training in history at the University of British Columbia in Septmeber 2018.
Configurations of Hope: Youth Activism in Asia
Anxiety about the future among the youth has become a global phenomenon. Whether it manifests in the form of occupy politics, creative labor, or as everyday affect against neoliberal precarity, racial violence, or political oppression, such anxiety articulates the problematic configurations of our time where the “youth” is often arrested in the conflicting rhetorics of precarity, resistance, and hope. As the future is quickly folded into the present through financial speculation, digital revolution, and neoliberal endgame, as a space of hope, it also becomes uncertain, murky, and insecure. How can we reimagine the future as a space of hope then? And how do we reconfigure the youth in it?
This spotlight panel brings together scholars working in/with diverse registers of cultural studies from cultural anthrology, communications studies, to cultural history, to shed light on the politics of hope as it relates to the con/figurations of youth against the dismay of our time.
Paper One: Little Pinks and the Reinvention of Cybernationalism
Keywords: cybernationalism, popular politics, emotion, China, space of appearance
From the May Fourth Movement in 1919, Chinese youth have always stood at the forefront of nationalistic movements. Over the past two decades, nationalism has resurfaced as a formidable form of popular political expression among Chinese youth, and the internet has also become a key battleground for popular nationalism. Cybernationalism has been brought into existence and gained momentum through the extensive use of social media and affective mobilization.
With the shifting of geopolitical relations in the past decade, how does cybernationalism reconfigure and reinvent itself to assert autonomy? How do the digitally-networked youth feel and perform their affections for the nation, as well as engage with their new opponents, under the new circumstances? This talk will focus on the emergence of the Little Pinks (xiao fenhong小粉红) as a form of popular political intervention, and consider the wider implications of its radical investment.
As a political invention, the Little Pinks is a designation for a group of youthful nationalists, who are predominantly young women and have launched a new wave of campaigns against perceived enemies or traitors of the nation since 2016. Their militant yet creative practices, as this talk will illustrate, have reconfigured the ways cybernationalism is performed. The talk identifies the Little Pinks’ origin, formation and performative practices, and traces how they reshape cybernationalism in terms of identity, discourse, tactics and expressive styles. In particular, I will discuss how their practices create a new space of appearance and a new community of feeling, and raise questions about the future place of youth in China and the world.
Paper Two: (Un)belonging in Times of Crisis: Activism and Exclusion in Japan after 3/11 (Vivian Shaw)
Keywords: post-disaster citizenship, activism, 3/11, unbelonging, crisis politics
How do disasters shape the politics of citizenship, race, and social belonging? What do racial tensions look like within national imaginaries that are popularly understood as racially, ethnically, and socially homogenous? What do recent trends in “crisis activism” reveal about the potential for youth and urban communities to articulate spaces of resistance against emerging and ongoing social precarities? My talk explores these themes in the political and cultural context of Japan after 3/11, a devastating triple disaster of a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor meltdowns. In addition to its material effects, the disaster ushered in new formations of political resistance and public protest. As activists have criticized the Japanese state for its apparent abandonment of “its citizens,” they have often sought to cultivate new modalities of civic participation, belonging, and, even “un-belonging.”
In this talk, I propose the concept of post-disaster citizenship to conceptualize how disasters alternately deepen existing modes of racial, gender, and sexuality-based exclusions and create new opportunities for social integration and belonging. Drawing on data that I collected over 24 months of ethnographic fieldwork between 2014 and 2017, I document how progressive activists in Japan developed a critical awareness about social inequality through the lens of disaster. While describing the multiple and varied spaces and expressive forms that activists adopted, ranging from punk music, fashion, queer performances to lobbying and human rights nonprofits, I consider the complex ways that these activists envisioned their work vis-à-vis youth politics and the ways that young people, their vulnerabilities, and their energy have occupied paradoxical positions—as both center and marginal within these movements. Finally, while focusing on the specific case of Japan, I consider how post-disaster mobilization might inform our understanding of the transnational contours of crisis politics and of our collective futures.
Paper Three: Islambergerak: Thinking progressivity through the lens of contemporary Islamic Left in Indonesia ( Nila Ayu Utami)
Keywords: communism, youth, Islamic left, Indonesia
In Indonesia, leftist ideas and Islamic ideas are popularly considered to be in opposition to one another, particularly after the demonization of communist ideas after the 1965 military-backed anti-Communist massacres. The Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), however, was birthed in notably one of the first organizations in modern Indonesia, the Islamic Association. Once enjoying ideological bond, Islam and Communism grew apart and most importantly live in heated tension. There has been attempt, however, to rebuild the bridge between Islam and Communism, which is heralded by the ‘militant’ journalism of Islambergerak, a platform circulating leftist Islamic thoughts. Although the discussions on the history of leftist ideas and Islamic thoughts are abundant, the discussion on Islambergerak as a left-leaning discussion platform in the increasingly conservative Indonesia has not been thoroughly researched. This paper aims to analyze the youth engagement to re-narrate the intertwining between the Islam and communism and attempts to reveal a possible alternative articulation of contemporary Islamic leftism.