Rights Make Might: Global Human Rights and Minority Social Movements in Japan

Friday, February 7, 2020 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM

Please join us for a lecture with:

Kiyoteru Tsutsui, University of Michigan

Andrew Nathan, Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

Why have the three most salient minority groups in Japan - the politically dormant Ainu, the active but unsuccessful Koreans, and the former outcaste group of Burakumin - all expanded their activism since the late 1970s despite the unfavorable domestic political environment? My investigation into the history of activism by the three groups reveals that a key factor was the galvanizing effects of global human rights on local social movements. Drawing on interviews and archival data, I document the transformative impact of global human rights ideas and institutions on minority activists, which changed the prevalent understanding about their standing in Japanese society and propelled them to new international venues for political claim making. The global forces also changed the public perception and political calculus in Japan over time, catalyzing substantial gains for the minority movements. Having benefited from global human rights, all three groups repaid their debt by contributing to the consolidation and expansion of international human rights principles and instruments. The in-depth historical comparative analysis offers rare windows into local, micro-level impact of global human rights and contributes to our understanding of international norms and institutions, social movements, human rights, ethnoracial politics, and Japanese society.