Against Japanism
Against Japanism
Aug 23, 2023
Danchi, Social Reproduction, and the Politics of Urban Development w/ Marxist Disco
Play • 1 hr 58 min

Felix a.k.a. Marxist Disco joins the show to discuss the wave of urban redevelopment happening in Japan right now.

There are more than 200 buildings planned just in the Tokyo area including Japan’s tallest skyscraper on record, despite the chronic recession and stagnant growth rate the country has been experiencing since the 1990s. To make sense of this contradiction, we critically engage with Marxist geographer David Harvey’s work, particularly his theory of "spatial fix," and of the urban as the site of social reproduction and revolutionary class struggle. 

In the first segment of this interview, we discuss the proposed redevelopment of Jingu Gaien as an entry point to the history of capitalist urban development in post-WWII Japan.

A seemingly unlikely alliance of environmentalists, conservative politicians, and urban planners has coalesced in opposition to the project. However, the middle class leadership of the opposition movement has focused primarily on the cutting down of ginkgo trees and the aesthetic of urban redevelopment, rather than a systematic critique of capitalist urbanization as a form of class warfare against poor, working class, and unhoused residents of Tokyo such as shown in the removal of a tent city in Miyashita Park in Shibuya.

In the second segment of this interview, we zoom in on the question of social reproduction and the class character of urban development in postwar Japan through the history of public housing projects known as Danchi

We discuss the peasant resistance to the construction of danchis in the 50s, their role in the reproduction of the white colour work force and the gendered division of labour during the 60s & 70s, and the mystification of the middle class as an ideal subject of the Japanese nation, as well as how the demographic change in recent decades has made danchis a symbol of social decay and a target of far right attacks. We rely extensively on journalist Yasuda Koichi’s book “Danchi to Imin (Danchi and Immigrants)” for this segment, as well as other materials sourced by Felix in his research project.

In the third segment, we discuss how the depopulation of the Japanese countryside and the collapse of housing prices there have led to the “I Turn” phenomena of urban-to-rural migration, aided by an idealization of the countryside as the repository of authentic Japaneseness by young middle class Japanese urbanites and Western Japanophiles alike, as well as the effect of imperialism on the changing class composition of the Japanese agriculture.

We conclude our discussion by talking about the limits and the possibilities of anti-capitalist struggles and urban-based social movements in Japan and beyond.

Read the full episode description here.

Intro: Cielo by Huma Huma

Outro: E.N.T by Green Kids

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