Organized Panel Session
This panel interrogates cultural circle movements in Japan as local sites of radical critique and transnational political and arts activism. Cultural circles became the arena where progressive political cultural was generated during the Allied Occupation and 1950s, and gave rise to abundant creative production, such as poetry magazines, plays, and activist art for the streets.
During Japan’s volatile decades after the Asia Pacific War, the culture circle movement became a crucial site for cultural expression and civic engagement that developed in tandem with dominant discourses of the Allied Occupation, the Japanese state, and a rapidly expanding consumer economy. People joined culture circles through their workplaces, unions, or informal local networks of people. The cultural circles, in turn, gave rise to diverse threads of grassroots civic and cultural engagement rooted in the ideals of postwar democracy. Unoda brings to light the dynamics of Korean ethnicity and radical critiques of the Korean War as integral to the antiwar cultural practices of progressive circle groups. Kawaguchi delineates the dynamics of the influential Hiroshima circle Warera no uta and its involvement in anti-Korean War protest. Sherif analyzes the links between the profoundly local cultural circles, the JCP, and the international project of developing a political culture in which the Marxist analysis of politics and economics was elaborated into a way of life and expression. The panel will also critique recent social networks grounded in the culture circle tradition and the reasons for extensive scholarly and local focuses on the circle movement today.