Northeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - From coal miner’s wife to historical actor: The personal archive of Matsuo Keiko

Saturday, July 7
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Jacaranda I, First Floor

This paper focuses on the building and preservation of a personal archive, that of MATSUO Keiko. Matsuo became an activist after her husband suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning in a 1963 explosion at a Mitsui Miike coal mine. Her father had also been a coal miner, and had been involved in the pivotal strike of 1960. Matsuo’s life story demonstrates one case of how an “ordinary” woman became launched into a national activist network, and how her understandings of her experiences and their connections to history prompted her to build and preserve her own archive.


    Based upon examining the materials that Matsuo saved and that local volunteers helped her catalogue, and also upon oral histories with Matsuo herself, I consider what we can learn from her archive from three aspects. First, I discuss how her specific experiences of postwar cultures of life-writing and particularly of union activism encouraged her to think of herself as a historical actor. Then I introduce how gendered expectations in the coal mining community in which she lived made it possible for Matsuo to become involved in activism after her husband suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning in a mine explosion. Finally, I trace how Matsuo’s personal story illuminates many of the networks between labor and environmental activism in postwar Japan by discussing how connections she first made through Minamata activism resulted in the formal cataloguing of her archive.

Chelsea Szendi SCHIEDER

Meiji University, Japan

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