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Scream from the Shadows

The Women’s Liberation Movement in Japan

Setsu Shigematsu

Publication Year: 2012

More than forty years ago a women’s liberation movement called ūman ribu was born in Japan amid conditions of radicalism, violence, and imperialist aggression. Setsu Shigematsu’s book is the first to present a sustained history of ūman ribu’s formation, its political philosophy, and its contributions to feminist politics across and beyond Japan. Through an in-depth analysis of ūman ribu, Shigematsu furthers our understanding of Japan’s gender-based modernity and imperialism and expands our perspective on transnational liberation and feminist movements worldwide.

In Scream from the Shadows, Shigematsu engages with political philosophy while also contextualizing the movement in relation to the Japanese left and New Left as well as the anti–Vietnam War and radical student movements. She examines the controversial figure Tanaka Mitsu, ūman ribu’s most influential activist, and the movement’s internal dynamics. Shigematsu highlights ūman ribu’s distinctive approach to the relationship of women—and women’s liberation—to violence: specifically, the movement’s embrace of violent women who were often at the margins of society and its recognition of women’s complicity in violence against other women.

Scream from the Shadows provides a powerful case study of a complex and contradictory movement with a radical vision of women’s liberation. It offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the blind spots within our contemporary and dominant views of feminism across their liberal, marxist, radical, Euro-American, postcolonial, and racial boundaries.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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pp. 1-7


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p. vi-vi

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Preface: Feminism and Violence in the Womb of Empire

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pp. ix-xiv

After more than a decade- long U.S.- led globalized war of terror that has punctuated the onset of the twenty- first century, what are the conditions of possibility for feminist politics in this age of Empire? What have been the interventions as well as the fault lines of feminism(s) in such times? This book begins by posing questions about the interrelationship of feminism, ...

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Introduction: Ūman Ribu as Solidarity and Difference

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pp. xv-xxxiv

In 1970, a new women’s liberation movement, known as ūman ribu (woman lib), erupted across Japan. This grassroots feminist movement was catalyzed by the 1960s uprisings in the wake of the anti–Vietnam War movement, stu-dent movements, and New Left radicalism. This book forwards an analysis of the historical significance of ūman ribu and its politics, philosophy, legacy, ...

I. Genealogies and Violations

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1. Origins of the Other/Onna: The Violence of Motherhood and the Birth of Ribu

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pp. 3-31

Declarations like the “scream from the womb” and the “truth spoken by the vagina” were emblematic of the discourse that distinguished ūman ribu (woman lib) from its political predecessors. Ūman ribu was conceived from the cross- fertilization of multiple political and intellectual genealogies that catalyzed a new social movement. This chapter traces the political ...

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2. Lineages of the Left: Death and Reincarnation of a Revolutionary Ideal

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pp. 33-62

Ūman ribu was an offspring of a complicated leftist genealogy. An understanding of the political genealogy of the New Left in Japan is crucial to assess ribu’s political significance as a postwar social movement that offered a critique of the Japanese state and the Japanese left.1 Reading the margins of Japanese leftist history, it is striking how the watershed events between ...

II. Movements and Mediums

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3. The Liberation of Sex, Onna, and Eros: The Movement and the Politics of Collective Subjectivity

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pp. 65-102

Ribu refers to a social movement, a political identity, and a living philosophy and spans multiple temporalities. From its rupturing moment of emergence in 1970 to its rearticulations four decades later, its dynamic constitution has been forged through a collective contestatory process. This chapter elaborates how ribu emerged as a social movement by focusing on the work of ...

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4. Ribu and Tanaka Mitsu: The Icon, the Center, and Its Contradictions

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pp. 103-135

In the summer of 1970, Tanaka Mitsu appeared at leftist political gatherings, agitating and handing out her handwritten manifestos that called for the “liberation of eros” and the “liberation of sex.” In August 1970, for example, she went to the Asian Women against Discrimination conference at Hosei University in Tokyo. This meeting was attended by about two thousand ...

III. Between Feminism and Violence

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5. ribu's Response to the United Red Army: Feminist Ethics and the Politics of Violence

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pp. 139-170

Political violence remains as an aporetic condition.1 It is an ineluctable problematic bound to politics, ethics, sovereignty, and power. The definition of political violence is debated and unsettled, involving a spectrum of violence for political ends that can include state- sponsored violence and terrorism; military and policing actions; incarceration and torture; and insurgent, ...

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Epilogue: Lessons from the Legacy

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pp. 171-179

Ūman ribu's legacy remains vital to understanding the subsequent trajectories and contentions across feminist formations in Japan and offers lessons for the future of social movements beyond the Japanese context. While many books could be written about the complex conditions of post- 1970s feminism in Japan and how the women involved in ribu continue to shape this horizon, ...

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pp. 181-187

This book was made possible through the support of multiple communities of activists, teachers, mentors, colleagues, friends, comrades, and loved ones. I have lived with this project for a long time, and its deepest roots exceed my own life and genealogy. My journey through the archives and fieldwork to the completion of this book took many detours and processes of ...


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pp. 189-253


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pp. 255-271

E-ISBN-13: 9780816680122
E-ISBN-10: 0816680124
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816667598

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2012