Contesting Global Norms: Politics of Identity in Japanese Pro-Whaling Countermobilization


Why are anti- and pro-whaling coalitions still engaged in morally heated confrontations over whales tracing back to the 1970s? Revisiting the global whaling controversy, this article applies insights from the political sociology of social movements to highlight the importance of the politics of identity embedded in an elite-driven pro-whaling countermovement in Japan. As is well documented, Japan has proven a most difªcult context for the emerging "global" anti-whaling norm. Rather than simply reºecting material interests or cultural values, however, this sustained resistance should be approached from a processual and symbolic interactionist perspective as the construction of a pro-whaling moral universe integrated around strong and inºexible claims of collective identity. Empirically, the article analyzes the major discursive master frames constituting this pro-whaling identity. Arguing for the centrality of symbolic-moral framing, it further suggests three competing normative frameworks for making sense of the controversy in the wider context of global environmental norms-in-themaking.