The 57th GJS Seminar Impacts and Reverberations of LGBT Activism After the Great East Japan Earthquake

Date and time: December 7, 2018 (Fri.), 17:00-18:00PM
Venue: Lobby (1F), Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia,
The University of Tokyo
Speaker: Natasha Fox (PhD Candidate, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Canada)
Language: English

Abstract:Individual accounts of disaster in Japan and elsewhere show both the need to account for LGBT experiences of disasters, and how flaws in disaster risk reduction (DRR) planning can create added burdens for LGBT people in the disaster environment. When the 2011 earthquake and tsunami forced people of Tohoku to flee to shelters and emergency refuge stations, LGBT residents in the region, many of whom had not been living openly as such, had to navigate a highly heteronormative and cisnormative emergency environment. Inequalities built into the disaster preparation process meant that LGBT people could be refused access to a hospitalized spouse, pressured to self-identify as either “male” or “female” in order to access emergency shelters, or face overt harassment based on sexuality and/or gender identity. In the longer-term recovery period, LGBT Japanese people have been excluded from provisional housing, which is designated only for members of a “family unit”, excluding same-sex couples unrecognized by Japanese law. Responding to these and other injustices, Tohoku-based LGBT activism demonstrates the creative strategies through which rural LGBT folk have met one another’s post-disaster needs, while destabilizing orthodoxies of sexuality and rural vs. urban spaces in Japan. A recent demonstration in Iwate Prefecture illustrates both the challenges of LGBT grassroots political organizing in local communities, as well as the significance of the post-disaster context in galvanizing new forms of political subjectivity. My talk will describe some of the ways in which local LGBT people encountered the disasters, and discuss some ongoing reverberations of these encounters with a focus on NGOs in Tohoku.

Organizer: The Global Japan Studies Network (GJS)
Co-organizer: Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA)
Contact: gjs[at]