Toward Sustainable Occupations by Amateurs: Reflections on the OWS – Shiroto no Ran Flying Seminar

OWS meets Shiroto no Ran at The Flying Seminar at The New School, Oct. 25, 2011 © Kei Nakagawa

Contingency is of the essence for creativity. The Flying Seminar session with members from Shiroto no Ran (Amateur Revolt), an anti-nuclear and counter cultural social movement group from Japan, and Occupy Wall Street, I think, was not an exception. What started as a rash decision by the Shiroto no Ran to come to New York to show their support to the OWS protest and to experience the heart of the occupation first-hand took an unplanned change after a chance meeting. Through a New School effort to create the time and space for deeper and meaningful dialogue, a valuable Japanese – American encounter occurred.

I heard the news about Shiroto no Ran’s visit just a day before their arrival. During their short stay at the Liberty Square, we met and talked about OWS. From our conversations, I began to realize how difficult it was for them to actually get the opportunity to really meet and get to know the people who are most engaged in the OWS movement. The activists in Zuccotti Park were too busy and things were changing too rapidly there. I realized that there was a need for creating a space that would facilitate a dialogue between these two groups of activists. A teach-in session organized by two New School professors, Jeffrey Goldfarb and Elzbieta Matynia, not only opened a door of opportunity, but also gave a concrete structure to my vague idea. From listening to their ideas about the Flying Seminar, I realized that we could have a serious conversation between these movements from different cultures. Just two days after I proposed the event, we all met, and my sense that it could be worthwhile, proved to be correct.

As a participant in both movements, I see my contribution in creating a space for dialogue as a modest one. But on the other hand, as a researcher who is working on the Japanese 1968 movement from a transnational perspective, I am especially interested. I am fascinated how such a dialogue is now possible . . .

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