Sixth Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University


last update 2002/03/09

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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181


Session 24
Formations of International Knowledge in and on Asia
Organizer: Ito Ruri, Ochanomizu University
Chair: Kosaku Yoshino, University of Tokyo

This panel offers an occasion to reflect on the question of formations of international knowledge in and on Asia. The formations that we are interested in are those that are (1) not isomorphic with nation, (2) always exceed national boundaries, and (3) fuse knowledge from various regions. Tani Barlow will examine Christian internationalism and female education in the late nineteenth century Asia, with an emphasis on tracking the nature and the sources of knowledge about the imaginary object, "Asia" (consisting largely of reports from India, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Canada), that women missionaries drew on during the training period before they reached the field. In his paper on the role of the Yaeyama Island women's textile collective in the Okinawan revitalization of island cultures movement, Shigeki Takeo considers if a localist communitarian way of thinking grounded in everyday experiences can be squared with the reality that technical knowledge, marketing strategy, interpersonal exchanges among weaving women far exceed the boundaries of Iriomote Island and actually link weavers to their counterparts in Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines and Taiwan. Ruri Ito proposes, through her review of the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal and related public hearings, that the bringing together of local knowledges about violence against women by the testimonies of survivors can lead to the development of international knowledge, which in turn has the capacity to transform the codes of international law on criminal violence against women.

1) Tani Barlow, University of Washington. "The Question of 'Asia' and Female Education in Christian Internationalism"

The Archives of The Society For Promoting Female Education in Asia show how Christian internationalism was established as a kind of integral knowledge. It took shape in relation to a nuanced, anthropological, carefully "researched" and reported imagined object called "Asia." Publications like Torchbearer, Daybreak, The Zenana, and India's Women as well as records of missionaries trained to proselytize among cloistered women in the target nations, will enable me to analyze the logic of evangelical forms of international knowledge. Not only was this formation regionalizing ("Asia" appears to have included Canada and Australia) in contemporary terms, it was premised on specific knowledge of the "two such mighty empires as India and China" and detailed understanding of the various kinds of heathenism found there and in Japan, Ceylon, and elsewhere (_India's Women_ Volume X: 59, Sept-Oct 1890, pp. 274-5). Tani Barlow's argument seeks to establish the multilateral framework of knowledge about "Asia" in Christian evangelicalism and consequently the truism that when a mission to Osaka, Foochow, Lucknow or Winnepeg received a teacher or doctor this woman arrived in the field with comparative knowledge about "Asia" already in place. Not only was Christianity by its very nature universalizing, the content of the knowledge that women missionaries brought with them about "Asia" was already formed before they reached the field. Barlow's object is to describe the content of that thought.

2) Ito Ruri, Ochanomizu University. "International Feminism in Asia and the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal"

Ruri Ito asks the question: what sort of diverse international negotiations were necessary in the construction of a body of knowledge called "violence against women" strong enough to stand up in a court of international law? Her case is the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal and related public hearings held in Tokyo in December 2001. The tribunal focused on the question of Japanese military sexual slavery during the war in the 1930's and 40's in the Asia and Pacific Region. To prosecute the Japanese State and Emperor Hirohito for their culpability in the crime required assembling over seventy-five survivors from nine countries. The legal team extracted testimony from survivors and assembled documentary evidence. Ito argues that not only does this effort potentially mark a new phase in international feminism, it also contributes to a breakthrough in the development of international law. This project is an implicit alternative to the discourse of international women's human rights that often proves a more self-interested project developed by the United States to mediate its relation with other countries.

3) Takeo Shigeki, Meiji Gakuin University. "The 'Revitalization Movement' of Islands: The Case of the Textile Cooperative Movement in Iriomote"

Shigeki Takeo's paper examines the Yaeyama Island women's textile collective, particularly in the Island of Iriomote, in the context of Okinawan revitalization of island cultures movement. This revitalization movement began in the late 1970's following the reversion of Okinawa to Japan after 27 years of U.S. military occupation. Capital infusions and emigration of youth left islands depopulated. The revitalization movements seek for the administrative and economic autonomy as well as cultural independence based on the sense of belonging to a local community. Takeo is intrigued by the internal contradiction between the localist communitarian orientation and the real practices, in this case women's textile production, which are by definition interregional, international and collective. How, then does localist strategy link to the reality that technical knowledge, marketing strategy, interpersonal exchanges among weaving women far exceed the boundaries of Iriomote Island and actually link women weavers to their counterparts in Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines and Taiwan?

Discussant: Vera Mackie, Curtin University of Technology


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