Resistance and Identity
In tracing alternative ways of living in Japan in the 2000s, i center my exploration of this young organic farmer around two key concepts: resistance and identity.
Resistance is the active, intentional efforts made by groups and individuals to change or live differently than the dominant status quo. In Japan in the 2000s resistance means living according to values, roles, and actions that are alternative to those favored in postwar mainstream life, which was centered on rapid industrial, export-centered economic growth—an economic situation That has now faded. Resistance is never completely outside of the generally accepted truths and power dynamics of the times but is always present in a society (Foucault 1980). Resistance can be more alternative, suggesting gradual changes within the system, or more oppositional, pushing toward radical change in the system (allen 2004). When groups or individuals resist in a certain time and place, they draw on both “residual” beliefs and practices from the cultural-historical past and “emergent” beliefs and practices that are being developed anew (williams 1994). Resistance of a long-term nature is tense and ambivalent with ambiguities and contradictions (rosenberger forthcoming).
Identity is the psycho-social sense of who one is in one's various social groups. It often implies accepting a certain societal role offered by the social group, like salaryman or housewife or career woman in Japan (Hall 1996). But it can also be a process of enacting various identities in different social groups (like worker by day and musician by night) or of creating a relatively new role (in this case, young woman organic farmer) (Ueno 2005). Family and school train people to play the game of their social group and class as they grow up; their habits are formed and effective in negotiating for power on this 3-D gameboard (Bourdieu 1989). But if people try to take on new identities, they have to learn new ways of thinking, acting, and interacting so they can play the new games that they meet. Newly created identities are a kind of resistance to the status quo (Melucci 1989). When identity and resistance meet in an individual, inevitably contradictions and ambivalences emerge because the person is always between the old and the new ways of being in his or her life (Gunewardena 2007; Ortner 2006).
In this chapter, my main aim is to illustrate a particular way of resisting the status quo in Japan in the 2000s through organic farming and to explore what kind of resistance is possible in the contemporary Japanese context (Honda 2006; Lunsing 2006; Mathews 2003; rosenberger 2001). I also examine the nuances of the social identity that Kana works to create in relation to the historical-cultural context of her life and the innovative future that she and the organic movement envision. Second, i touch on two larger questions: (1) what is the nature of resistance here, and what does this teach us about resistance?
(2) what can we learn about the process of creating a new social identity?
Facing the Nitty-Gritty of Organic Farming
Kana took a risk and returned home in her late twenties to learn organic farming, going several times a week to work with a nearby organic farmer for the First year and appealing to him for advice as she started up. She acquired five different pieces of land for vegetables. One large piece crowned the hill behind and above her house and had a great view, spoiled only by a smudge of brown pollution in the direction of tokyo. We picked small stalks of broccoli with leaves, matsuna greens, and large turnips. Another small field was nearby on the side of the hill. It was a fifteen-minute drive to three other pieces of land in the next village, all located at various spots on a hillside going up the side of a valley. The lower land could support carrots and onions, but the higher land got less sun and was mainly for daikon (long white radishes).
As we came to the top of the slope of the hill above her house, she pointed to a hilltop where a cell tower was located. “i tried to get farmers together in this area to protest that cell tower. Concentrated electromagnetic waves are not good for the crops. But they didn't respond at all. I had to quit because i need their goodwill. They don't understand.” Her forehead wrinkled in exasperation.
Kana brightened, however, as she showed me a pile of compost that she
Kana Was making. Taking off on a Japanese proverb, she said, “i can't do much. I can't even make a cat's forehead of difference. I'm just making an ant's forehead of difference.” She shot a grin at me. “But i make the safest and most delicious vegetables that i can to give to my consumers. It's the cycle with the land that is important. To make compost, i get rice bran [nuka] and mix that with about 10 percent chicken droppings from a farmer nearby who uses good feed and no antibiotics. Then i layer them, add water gradually, stamp them down, and mix them about five times. They ferment and bake and become this wonderful compost for my fields.” She ran her hands through the soft soil in the most mature pile and gave some to a nearby onion that was growing through the relatively warm winter in her area. However, as we will see, the earthquake and tsunami of 2012 would challenge her use of natural materials close at hand to make nourishing compost.