Heritage from the margins? Shuri Castle and the Politics of Memory

Kyushu University Border Studies will host this exciting interdisciplinary Workshop on the borders of memory present at Shuri Castle, in partnership with IMAP, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia. It is an Association for Borderlands Studies Japan Chapter Event.

Workshop Organizers:

Ran Zwigenberg (Pennsylvania State University)

Victoria Young (University of Cambridge)

Edward Boyle (Kyushu University)

Provisional Schedule (All times Japan Standard Time)

Friday 5 March



  • Ginoza Ayano (University of the Ryukyus)
  • Maetakenishi Kazuma (Nihon University)
  • Ra Mason (University of East Anglia)
  • Sakuma Sayaka (Osaka City University)
  • Tomochi Masaki (Okinawa International University)

Moderated by Victoria Young


  • Simon Kaner (Sainsbury Institute and the University of East Anglia)
  • Kono Toshiyuki (Kyushu University, ICOMOS)

Moderated by Ellen Van Goethem (Kyushu University)


  • Justin Aukema (Kyoto Women’s University)
  • Oleg Benesch (University of York)
  • Matsuda Hiroko (Kobe Gakuin University)
  • Travis Seifman (University of Tokyo)
  • Eriko Tomizawa-Kay (University of East Anglia)

Moderated by Ran Zwigenberg

Saturday 6 March


  • Gerald Figal (Vanderbilt University)
  • Tze May Loo (University of Richmond)
  • Wendy Matsumura (University of California San Diego)
  • Chris Nelson (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
  • Gregory Smits (Pennsylvania State University)
  • Amanda Mayer Stinchecum (Independent Scholar)

Moderated by Edward Boyle

Supported by “Resilient Material” QR Program (Qdai-jump Research Program) no. 02101 and「九州大学ウェビナー100」funding.

Call for Papers for Sessions on Heritage, Kyushu University, July 18-19 2020

Call for Papers

“Heritage, conflicted sites and bordered memories in Asia”

Sessions Sponsored by the British Association of Japanese Studies

Kyushu University, Nishijin Plaza, Fukuoka

July 18-19, 2020

On July 18 and 19, Kyushu University will host a two-day international conference on “Identity Politics and the Challenges of Cultural Diversity Across Contemporary Asia”. As part of the program, we will organize a number of sessions with the collective title of “Heritage, conflicted sites and bordered memories in Asia”. These sessions will examine issues of Heritage in contemporary Asia, and will build upon the results of an earlier conference held at Kyushu University in December 2016, on “Borders of Memory”.

Together with the tension emerging from UNESCO recognition accorded particular sites of national heritage in East Asia, there has been increased interest in the possibilities for heritage serving as “cosmopolitan” sites of memory, ones able to transcend national boundaries and function within different mnemonic communities. In these sessions, we are particularly interested in the ways that heritage, and its specific material manifestations, works as a means of transcending borders for memory collectives, whether national or local.

The borders referred to here are both spatial and temporal. One concern is the relation between heritage and spatial division, how particular sites of memory are able to speak to communities located in distinct, and frequently antagonistic, national spaces. A second series of borders in which we are particularly interested are the ways sites of heritage “concretize” narratives across temporal boundaries, providing the material foundations for the channelling of contemporary claims about the past.

In bringing together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to reflect on how memories are made, materialized and memorialized within and across societies, these sessions will deepen and enrich our understanding of the significance of heritage for national identities and international relations in the Asia-Pacific and beyond.

We invite interested scholars to submit abstracts (of up to 250 words) to the session organizer by March 31, 2020.

Thanks to the generosity of the British Association of Japanese Studies, who will sponsor these sessions on Heritage, there will be three awards (of 25,000 JPY each) available to support the attendance of graduate students or early career scholars. Please indicate if you wish to be considered for these awards when submitting your abstract.


Ted Boyle: boyle@law.kyushu-u.ac.jp

Labouring for Connectivity in Arunachal Pradesh

Latest piece by Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman and myself is out now in volume 2 of the journal Roadsides, curated by Galen Murton. Our contribution examines the development of connectivity in the Himalayan state of Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India, focussing on the circulation of labouring bodies necessary for connectivity to tbe constructed.

The article, as well as the rest of the theme issue and all Roadsides pieces, is available from their website: https://roadsides.net/boyle-rahman-002/

ABS 2019 Conference and Tijuana

The end of April saw the Association for Borderlands Studies hold its Annual Meeting in San Diego, providing a perfect setting for the themes with which the conference sought to grapple. The increasing salience of Asia’s border for their study globally was apparent in the two panels in which KUBS participated. The first, organized by Po-Yi Hung of National Taiwan University, brought together a collection of papers that considered the role of the borders in everyday life in East Asia, and featured Akihiro Iwashita, Naomi Chi, Yu-Hsiu Lien and myself.

The second was based around the Jean Monnet Network grant comparing Migration and Border Policies in the EU, Canada, and Japan, which was established under the Borders in Globalization project headed by Emmanuel Brunet-Jailly of the University of Victoria. The panel built upon the results of Workshops which had been held in Strasbourg, Brussels, Ottawa, Hokkaido, and Victoria over the previous three years, and provided an opportunity for Oliver Schmidtke, Birte Wassenberg, Naomi Chi and myself to set out what we had learned and reflected upon during the course of these workshops. Each of the three teams is producing a series of special issues and edited collections on their own area of study, while also contributing to the comparative work emerging through the project.

San Diego itself was a pleasant enough city,

in the somewhat identikit West Coast mould of Vancouver or Seattle, but was more interesting when viewed both as a borderland and as a city defined by the border fence that runs between itself and the Mexican City of Tijuana to the south.

This was not just for the great craft beer, but also reflected the ways in which the border exists in daily life, and how it is experienced for large sections for the population. One place where this was particularly apparent was at Chicano Park, a small community space beneath freeway off-ramps that was home to a beautiful series of murals proclaiming allegiance to a broader Mexican or indigenous identity. Painted up since the 1970s, the murals spoke to a sense of cross-border community being maintained in the heart of the old Mexican Barrio in San Diego. Yet one gardener’s story of how money for park maintenance was being siphoned off by the park’s management sadly reflects the ways in which community cohesion is increasingly hostage to private interests.

Fortunately, the ABS Meeting anticipated the interest in discovering the border by its participants, and in partnership with El Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF), arranged a tour across the border and series of events on the other side.

The pedestrian border crossing appears to have been designed as a paradigmatic representation of contemporary border trends, all exposed metal, barbed wire, cameras, and the incessantly channeling of human bodies along specific, well-defined tracks.

A more spontaneous, emotionally-charged version of the border was made available to us at the end of the trip, as we were taken to the famous section of border fence initially constructed by Clinton at the coast. While the US side of this section is a deliberately abandoned area of sand dunes and scrub, euphemistically labelled an ‘International Park’ on the map whilst being circled by border patrol agents and helicopters overhead, on the Mexican side, as appears to be the common pattern, the border is built right up to and, in a sense, taken possession of.

A border space at once haunting, celebratory and defiant.

Yaeyama Trip 2018

On August 28-30 2018, I was lucky enough to visit the islands of Ishigaki and Hateruma in Okinawa. These two islands are part of the southernmost group of islands in the prefecture, collectively known as the Yaeyamas.

Tojin-baka, a memorial to shipwrecked Chinese from Amoy shipwrecked and later slaughtered on Ishigaki in 1852. The memorial was first constructed in 1971 and renewed in 1992.

The trip formed part of a project being conducted by a six-member group led by Professor Koji Furukawa, of Chukyo University, which was looking to undertake “Comparative border research on island countries and regions of the Asia-Pacific: the Yaeyamas and Palau”. This research was funded for the years 2018-2019 by a Ryukyu University Research Institute for Islands and Sustainability (RIIS) Research Grant. Within the project, I was granted responsibility for examining notions of War Memory and Heritage, which allowed for me to examine these areas through the lens provided by the concept of Borders of Memory.

Peace Memorial at Japan’s Southernmost point, on Hateruma Island.

However, my interest in these marginal spaces of the nation is not limited to their material capture in heritage memorials, and also includes how such spaces operate and exist within the national imagination today. This is particularly through examining infrastructure, the various means through which island spaces are tied into the state’s national body, whether through (mothballed) airports or something as banal as manhole covers.

Manhole cover on Hateruma, ‘Japan’s Southernmost point where the Southern Cross glitters’.

The existence of this island of Hateruma as the edge of the nation comes also to be tied into more global questions, as the island hosts a key institution of Japan’s Center for Global Environmental Research, monitoring environmental change, particularly changes in greenhouse gas concentrations, from this remote corner of the nation (see on this

Hateruma Global Environment Monitoring Station

Cross-cutting borders

Particularly interesting is the way in which the spatially- and temporally-distinct ways in which these islands relate to the national and prefectural stories that they reference in their heritage. One aspect of this is the invocation of Hateruma as Japan’s southernmost point, a claim which obviously ignores not only the prefecture’s forceful incorporation in 1879, but the 35 years of American military rule after 1945. The ending of the latter is celebrated in a number of monument’s at the island’s southern point, most notably in the serpentine sculpture that ties stones from all of Japan’s prefectures to Hateruma’s soil.

Reversion Monument, Hateruma

The Yaeyamas are also distinguished by their memory of the War itself. The cataclysmic carnage of Okinawa’s experience is well-known, but the Yaeyama tragedy was distinct, with the forced removal of the island group’s population to malaria-infested areas and subsequent deaths of many of them. This is commemorated in the small Peace Museum in Ishigaki, latterly run as a branch museum of the main institution on Okinawa itself, as well as at a relatively new monument in Banna Park on Ishigaki Island.

Memorial to the Victims of Malaria, Banna Park, Ishigaki Island

Conveniently reflecting the ambiguity of notions of Japan in thinking about the Yaeyamas, a few weeks before our visit had seen an incident of vandalism occur at yet another monument at the southernmost point of Hateruma Island, with the scars still clearly visible on its flag. This conveniently captures the complex and contradictory ways in which the nation, and the island’s place in them, comes to be memorialized in the present.