Saturday, February 25, 2012

Hope beyond Time and Space: A Love Letter to Eclipse Rising

Haruki Eda

In March 2009, when we gathered at Miho’s house, in that living room whose walls we had just painted the primer on, we gave birth to an alternative timespace. The timespace that doesn’t force us into a now and here of state-sanctioned unconsciousness.

We began with the future; we literally drew pictures of a future we wish to see---or rather, to be. We imagined a future in which we will be proud and loving of ourselves. We imagined a future in which our families, friends, and communities will thrive together. We imagined a future in which we will overcome multiple divisions and heal from multiple forms of violence. But as soon as we articulated and reclaimed these visions, weren’t we already living in that future? Weren’t we proud and loving, thriving together, reunited and already healing? I certainly was. I felt it it inside me, I felt it on my skin, I felt it in the air. We were the future.

And we continue to be. Revolution is not a day on which we will complete our checklist.

We also faced the past; we began to help each other bring our histories to light. The blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors in remote time and space, those faces that had once been too vague in the distance (if we had been allowed to look at all), we started to recognize. Among ourselves, in our faces and voices. I had hardly known anything about my ancestors, let alone the histories we share. About the students who defended woori hakkyo from the police. About the genocide of Koreans after the Great Kanto Earthquake. Nor about the movement to abolish the mandatory fingerprinting. But I do now. I am aware of the part of me that has long been invisible. I am aware of the ancestors living with me and guiding me to the future. We are constantly reclaiming and embodying the past. We are becoming the past.

And we must be. Revolution will not be footnoted into academic journals or archived into sterilized museum cases.

This is the temporality of Eclipse Rising. Through the porous boundaries between the future and the past, our hope permeates. The present is no longer the now of silence, alienation, erasure, and despair; it is a now of organizing, a now of decolonizing, a now of self-determining. We are no longer severed from our past and denied access to our future. We are no longer easily swept away by the forceful flows of immediate and momentary information commodities and empty instant gratification. We are no longer bribed into compliance by the conniving and irresponsible “It Gets Better” candy. We believe that another now, another we is possible. It is already happening---what time are we (in/on)? A now of becoming the not-yet-here.

Eclipse Rising is also a space. It’s the cozy living room, the SF State campus, the LA hotel room, the downtown Oakland, the Korean BBQ table, the immigration at Narita airport, the California freeways, the garage/photo studio, the Tokyo subways, and the Skype meetings. It’s a space beyond space, where we dream, laugh, cry, learn, and love. It’s a space with fluid boundaries, both open and protective.

It’s a diasporic space, an exile space, and a transnational space. Our homeland/s is/are fragmented, occupied, colonized, and polluted. The societies we reside in are oppressive, hostile, and exploitative. Nowhere to go to or go back to. We have no flags, no anthems, no uniform passports. We speak in multiple tongues, imperfectly. Our existence is a threat to nationalism; our so-called “differences” and “diversity” are nothing but a strength. We are able to create home in multiple spaces. Our diaspora is not unilaterally defined by the homeland (“back there”) or the history (“back then”); it is certainly informed by them, but it also challenges and transforms them. It’s a hybrid space of diasporic futurism.

Yet it’s not an isolated space. It’s a coal mine, an Utoro, a comfort station, a ship to Shimonoseki, a boat that didn’t reach Pusan, a Korean ghetto, a “poisoned” well, and a prison cell. It’s also a DMZ, a Jeju, an East Oakland, a Palestine, an Alcatraz, a Chinatown, an Okinawa, an Arizona, a buraku, a Tule Lake, a Compton Cafeteria, a plantation, a Guantánamo, a Golden Gate Bridge, a Haiti, a Tahrir Square, a San Quentin, a sidewalk, a kitchen table, and a bedroom. By this I don’t mean a space of victimization, but I mean a space of resistance and solidarity. We recognize the connections (though not an equation), and the necessity and urgency of it.

This is the spatiality of Eclipse Rising. Our love is rooted in our bodies, yet it transcends spaces. Where we are is no longer the confined, singular, fixed space of here, detached from other struggles or complicit in the binary logic of the local and the global. Instead, we embody, simultaneously, a here of belonging, as well as a there of solidarity. We are never only defined by the space we inhabit; we are always transforming the space. Those with limited views on time and space lament that globalization is just another form of colonization, but I am here now partly because of it, and in order for us to strive for our then and there, we must take advantage of it.

Thus, because we envision, engender, embody, and enact the alternative timespace---a then and there, beyond the normative conceptions of the now and here that are disengaged from critical, reflexive, and conscious praxis, we will never lose sight of hope. This is why Eclipse Rising is transformative, and, revolutionary.

Influential Works:

Gopinath, Gayatri. 2005. Impossible Desires: Queer Diaspora and South Asian Public Cultures. Durham: Duke University Press.

Muñoz, José Esteban. 2009. Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Eclipse Rising as one of the feature stories on Giant Robot

story link:
The Eclipse Also Rises
Brett Fujioka | 27, January 2012 | Features | No Comments

Kei Fischer’s American father met her mother in Japan as an English language teacher. They married and sired her shortly thereafter. Years later, they immigrated to the United States. “I know it sounds clichéd,” Fischer said as she related her story. It may sound like every other story where an American visits Japan and returns with a wife. There’s just one thing. Kei Fischer’s mother isn’t Japanese. She’s Korean.

She didn’t discover this until after death of her grandfather. It was then that her mother finally came clean. She deliberately passed herself as Japanese to avoid the negative stigma associated with Koreans in Post-War Japan.

Kei Fischer constitutes a marginalized minority in Japan called Zainichi. The Zainichi consist of multigenerational Koreans who immigrated to Japan after the annexation of their homeland in 1910. Some of these minorities sought economic opportunities and scholarships abroad, while several others worked as slave laborers under Japanese Imperial Rule.

Koreans eventually lost their Japanese citizenship after the dissolution of Japan’s colonial reign. Many returned to their broken homeland while others decided to stay and resume their lives in Japan. Since then, they’ve faced fiscal and prejudicial hardships resulting from institutionally discriminatory practices in Japan.

Fischer learned about this as she set out to explore this forgotten part of her life. Her journey eventually led her to the Bay Area, where she met Miho Kim. Like Fischer, Kim was a Zainichi from Japan and together they formed an organization called Eclipse Rising with other Zainichi Korean Americans. As founders, Kim and Fischer have been a driving force behind the organization, which doubles as an activist group rather than merely a club of solidarity. “[We want to] develop a Zainichi community that’s physical and recognize a unique perspective that our experiences offer that really can’t be understood beneath a lens of nation states and internationalism since we’re essentially stateless,” Kim said.

Other parts of their mission statement include cultivating stronger relationships with other oppressed groups like the LGBT community, Burakumin (‘untouchables’ in Japan), Okinawans, and Ainu among others. In addition to this, they campaign for the peaceful reunification between North and South Korea. As wide reaching as this objective is, it maintains the consistent focus of supporting, empowering, and granting further rights to Japanese minority groups like them. “We’re really fighting the root cause of structural racism within Japan because that’s the only way we can really bring resolution to what has perpetrated this subjucation of Zainichi,” Kim said. She further related her experiences as a Zainichi to those of the Japanese Americans interned during World War II. “Being immortalized, criminalized, and banished, your entitlement taken from under your feet overnight.”

Some of their past activities included a recap of their 2010 U.S.-Japan Solidarity Tour. They hosted this as a joint holiday party at the School of Unity and Liberation Office in Oakland, California on December 16th, 2010. The participants of this tour reported the findings of their 9-day long trip where they met the political prisoner Kazuo Ishikawa, The Burakumin Liberation League, Women’s Active Museum On War and Peace for Korea’s “comfort women,” The Funreai House community center for minorities living in Japan, and the Iju-ren solidarity network for migrant workers. In addition to this, Fischer and Kim had the opportunity to visit Pyong Yang, North Korea, in 2008. They rallied to stop the Korea US-Free Trade Agreement with other on January 14th, 2011 in front of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office in San Francisco under the pretense that it would sacrifice jobs and further erode workers’ rights.

These combined activities have brought the members of Eclipse Rising a long way from where they once stood. The days of passing and living in shame are as foregone as their history in Japan. This isn’t to say that their historical and emotional scars are effaced, but no longer are they hiding in the shadows and as a result moved beyond their previous state of victimhood to taking a stand for others.