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  • Militarized Currents: Toward a Decolonized Future in Asia and the Pacific
  • Kathy E. Ferguson
Militarized Currents: Toward a Decolonized Future in Asia and the Pacific, edited by Setsu Shigematsu and Keith L Camacho. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010. ISBN cloth, 978-0-8166-6505-1; paper, 978-0-8166-6506-8; ix + 355 pages, notes, index. Cloth, US$82.50; paper, US$27.50.

This volume of essays on the militarization of the Pacific and parts of Asia is a welcome, much-needed contribution to a woefully small body of scholarly work. There is little study of the military (particularly of the US military) as an institutional presence in this region; those hardy scholars who insist on leveling a critical gaze at the military often face a determined wall of silence.

In light of this pervasive silence, the essays in this book, which focus on Hawai‘i, Guam, the Marshall Islands, the Philippines, Okinawa, South Korea, and Japan, address an essential gap in our knowledge. This is a very teachable collection of essays, useful both for beginning students and more experienced scholars. The volume addresses both the “big picture” of the region and close readings of particular places that allow the big picture to take accurate shape. Editors Setsu Shigematsu from the University of California at Riverside and Keith Camacho from the University of California at Los Angeles provide an introduction that usefully situates contemporary militarization in the context of US and Japanese colonialism; the organization of labor, sexualities, racial and national identities, migration, adoption, and remembrance are wound around the spindle [End Page 539] of militarized economies and colonial histories.

One important theme emerging from these careful studies is the process by which militarization is both hidden and revealed. The process of hiding the military “in plain sight” endangers or distorts other memories, as Jon Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio explains in the book’s opening essay, “Memorializing Pu‘uloa and Remembering Pearl Harbor.” Teresia K Teaiwa similarly reflects on the erosion of memory regarding the Bikini Islanders’ forced migration and exile in her fine essay “Bikinis and Other S/pacific N/oceans, ” reprinted from The Contemporary Pacific (6:87–109 [1994]). For both scholars, the cultivation of local memories and the recognition of indigenous resistance are key to addressing the cultivated lacunae that sanitize history and erase the possibilities of living differently. Michael Lujan Bevacqua’s splendid essay, “The Exceptional Life and Death of a Chamorro Soldier,” analyzes the ironies in this relation of hiding to revealing. On the one hand, soldiers from Guam and the rest of the Pacific are significantly overrepresented in the US military; on the other hand, the “deep-tissue colonizing” (42) experienced in Guam hides this violence in the language of sacrifice and civilization. In “Touring Military Masculinities,” Vernadette Vicuña Gonzalez develops the connection between narratives of wartime sacrifice and the production of tourism around colonized war memories in the Philippines. Both Bevacqua and Gonzalez show how colonial contempt for local men, combined with attenuated economic opportunities and circumscribed constructions of citizenship, have organized the available identities for men in these places around the central access of militarism.

While many of the contributions in this volume make some reference to local resistances and alternative sites of memories, three essays focus directly on activism. Wesley Iwao Ueunten’s essay, “Rising Up from a Sea of Discontent,” analyzes the 1970 Koza Uprising in Okinawa, locating that event within the larger context of struggles against military bases. Katharine H S Moon’s piece, “South Korean Movements against Militarized Sexual Labor,” analyzes relations between first- and second-generation organizations fighting for human rights for women who have been forced or recruited into providing sexual labor for military men. In “Uncomfortable Fatigues,” Camacho and Laurel A Monnig situate resistance to Guam’s militarization within decolonization struggles.

These insightful analyses grapple with the complexity of local oppositions; they wax and wane, their legacy is often overwritten by national or colonial narratives of loyalty or passivity, and they face daunting internal contradictions. For instance, Moon’s study of two generations of women’s rights activists explains the distance between the older generation, those forced into sexual slavery as...