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Nishiyama, H. (2023) Decolonial encounter with neo-nationalism: The politics of indigeneity and land rights struggles in Okinawa. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 48, 290– 303. Available from:

Decolonial encounter with neo-nationalism : the politics of indigeneity and land rights struggles in Okinawa

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Author: Nishiyama, Hidefumi1
Organizations: 1Geography Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: John Wiley & Sons, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-11-03


This paper aims to make a contribution to ongoing debates in decolonial, indigenous, and island geographies through a case study of the Okinawan indigenous movement and its recent encounter with a neo-nationalist, and in effect neocolonial, movement. The Okinawan indigenous movement emerged against the backdrop of the continuing US military presence on Okinawa Island, which is the direct result of the post-war American military occupation and continues to be maintained by Japanese post-colonial policies. In the early 2000s, the movement achieved indigenous recognition by United Nations human rights bodies, which have since issued recommendations to the Japanese government to implement protective measures for the islanders, including indigenous land rights measures that are hoped to alleviate the militarised colonial situation. Not only does the Japanese government continue to ignore the recommendations, but the Okinawan indigenous movement today also confronts a new form of neocolonialism. In the past few years, a group of neo-nationalists and conservative politicians have initiated a countermovement against the Okinawan indigenous status. They have mobilised the unpopularity of the term ‘indigenous people’ in Japanese (‘senjūmin’) among Okinawans as a pretext for demanding the retraction of the recommendations. The case study shows that the different conceptualisations of decolonisation and indigeneity represent not only an analytical usefulness but also an empirical importance for they create a space in which these ideas can be (ab)used to both promote and hinder a decolonial pursuit of the reappropriation of colonised (is)lands. It illustrates a particular geopolitics of knowledge in which different actors mobilise different understandings of decolonisation and indigeneity for a decolonial or neocolonial end. The paper concludes with a discussion of the challenges for decolonial geographies that arise from the present study.

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Series: Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
ISSN: 0020-2754
ISSN-E: 1475-5661
ISSN-L: 0020-2754
Volume: 48
Issue: 2
Pages: 290 - 303
DOI: 10.1111/tran.12582
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 519 Social and economic geography
517 Political science
520 Other social sciences
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: © 2022 The Author. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers). This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.