Students of modern Japanese thought tend to have deep respect for the political activism of Nobel literature laureate Oe Kenzaburo (1935-). As a tireless advocate for the no-war clause in Japan’s post-war constitution, and a convener of the post-Fukushima anti-nuclear group “Sayonara Genpatsu,” Oe has a powerful oeuvre of speeches and essays in defense of democracy, peace, and environmentalism. Yet even if we agree with these writings conceptually, emotionally they disappoint. Why is it so hard to like them? This talk uses Eve Sedgwick’s notions of “paranoid” and “reparative” critical strategies to consider Oe’s anti-nuclear humanism as a kind of “aggressive hypothesis” - elegant in its simplicity, but ultimately tautological, with too few lines of flight outside a rigid temporality of repeated injury.
Mimi Long is Associate Professor of Japanese and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Riverside. Her book This Perversion Called Love: Reading Tanizaki, Feminist Theory and Freud was published by Stanford in 2009. Her current project is an eco-humanities look at public intellectuals in Japan and the 3.11 nuclear disaster. Titled Force, Affect, Origin: On Being Worthy of the Event, the book reads recent work by manga artist Hagio Moto, filmmaker Kamanaka Hitomi, web activist Iwakami Yasumi, political scientist Kang Sangjung, and writer Oe Kenzaburo, among others.