University of Oulu

Nishiyama, H. (2022). Base borders: Militarisation and (post-)colonial bordering in Okinawa. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 40(8), 1627–1642.

Base borders : militarisation and (post-)colonial bordering in Okinawa

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Author: Nishiyama, Hidefumi1
Organizations: 1Geography Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: SAGE Publications, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-05-12


This article builds on the political geography of islands and emerging research on the relationship between island, border and sovereignty. Today, islands are recognised as crucial sites for the understanding of contemporary border controls. Military bases that were built during earlier colonial periods are increasingly used for transnational migrant detention practices. This article aims to offer another important insight to the politics of borders from an island perspective. Drawing from the case of Okinawa, the article shows how bases on islands themselves produce borders. Fences and lines that encircle the US bases on Okinawa Island cannot be reduced to conventional military off-limits boundaries. They are particular kinds of borders, which I would call ‘base borders’, that continue to divide the island into military and public spaces and demarcate two seemingly territorially bound sovereignties. Base borders are, however, more than the manifestation of extraterritoriality. While they regulate the mobility of local residents, base borders enable military servicemembers to enjoy extraterritorial rights, including the right to avoid being held responsible for a crime they committed outside the bases. In addition to this uneven mobility control, base borders have a function to control local resistance movements through the criminalisation of the base border crossing by protesters and the authorisation of the use of force by security guards. This article closely investigates how base borders function and are used in reality, and in doing so, it uncovers multiple ways in which base borders reproduce colonial relations between the US military (in coordination with Japan) and Okinawa.

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Series: Environment and planning. C, Politics and space
ISSN: 2399-6544
ISSN-E: 2399-6552
ISSN-L: 2399-6544
Volume: 40
Issue: 8
Pages: 1627 - 1642
DOI: 10.1177/23996544221097232
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 517 Political science
519 Social and economic geography
Funding: This research was supported by the Academy of Finland (grant number 321755).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 321755
Detailed Information: 321755 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2022. Article reuse guidelines: The final authenticated version is available online at