Transnationalism and the Evolution of Post-National Citizenship in Japan

Simon Avenell*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Abstract: This article argues that transnational activism has been an important factor in both the evolution of Japanese civil society and the identity formation of civil society actors over the past half century. It reconsiders the Japanese experience in light of recent theorisations on deterritorialised and transnational citizenships which challenge the monopoly of the national state in defining civic identity by proposing novel alternatives based on cross-border affiliations among non-state actors. Different from existing endogenous and institutional explanations of the emergence and development of civil society in Japan, the article highlights the transformative impact of activists’ transnational activities. Until around the late 1960s Japanese activists tended to imagine their situation within a framework of victimised citizens versus a pernicious alliance of the state and industry. The state and corporations were the aggressors and citizens were always the victims. But transnational engagements in the anti-Vietnam War and environmental movements disrupted such assumptions, forcing activists to rethink their victimisation status and consider their complicity in the actions of the Japanese state and industry abroad. The result was an enriched and more broad-minded conceptualisation of post-national citizenship in which victim consciousness was tempered by a concern for those beyond the borders of Japan. This transnational sensitivity in turn contributed to the maturation of Japanese civil society.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)375-394
    Number of pages20
    JournalAsian Studies Review
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2015


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