2018: Nuclear Disaster and the State of Exception

The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 16 | Issue 16 | Number 4 | Aug 07, 2018

Japan’s 3.11 Nuclear Disaster and the State of Exception:
Notes on Kamanaka’s Interview and Two Recent Films
Margherita Long

This essay accompanies Katsuya Hirano’s Interview with Kamanaka Hitomi, “Fukushima, 
Media, Democracy: The Promise of Documentary Film (http://www.apjjf.org/2018/16/Kamanaka.html)”

Documentary filmmaker Kamanaka Hitomi’s interview with historian Katsuya Hirano takes the post-Fukushima debate in a number of fresh directions.

At the level of facts, Kamanaka draws from her vast knowledge of Japanese nuclear politics and the global nuclear industry to share developments that may startle even those who have tried to keep up with the unfolding crisis.

At the level of political critique, she finds synergy with Hirano and his insights as a chronicler of post-3.11 local politics to develop two broad points. First is that nuclear “recovery” (fukkō) as charted in Fukushima is neoliberal in the sense defined by Michel Foucault and developed by political theorists like Wendy Brown. Understanding the value of human life purely in economic terms, neoliberalism dismantles democracy by reducing all politics to market principles. Although Kamanaka and Hirano do not use the term “neoliberal,” I’ll argue that their criticism of neoliberal politics is explicit. The second point is that the suspension of human rights required by Fukushima’s “recovery” is a prime example of the state of exception that Giorgio Agamben identifies as an increasingly dominant paradigm of government in modern  democracies. Kamanaka and Hirano reference Agamben’s work directly, and I’ll elaborate why they find it useful. ....


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