Disaster and Utopia: Looking Back at 3/11

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    Abstract

    This article takes the notion of the 'disaster utopia' as a starting point for reconsidering the impact of the Japanese triple disaster of 11 March 2011 (3/11). It has often been observed that disasters may lead to utopian longings for a better world, and that these may, in some cases, lead to long-term social and political change. Drawing particularly on the ideas of Charles Fritz and Rebecca Solnit, the article briefly surveys the history of 'disaster utopianism' in Japan before exploring the specific versions of the search for 'world renewal' that emerged from 3/11. I argue that the ideas put forward by Fritz and Solnit can help us to reassess some of the widely accepted images of the response to 3/11. The 2011 disaster generated visions of a new world which, although profoundly divergent in their social implications, shared a common vocabulary centred upon terms such as saisei (regeneration) and kizuna (bonds of community). Exploring trends in postwar Japan through the prism of the 'disaster utopia' can, I suggest, shed new light on the processes of political change that have affected Japan in the years since 3/11.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)pp 1-20
    JournalJapanese Studies
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

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