The Ambiguous Potential of Hope

Today, I listened to one of my favorite lectures on the trip so far, partly because of the ability to communicate in English with Professor Satsuki Takahashi about fisheries, disaster, and hope. Contrasting with the devastating images of Fukushima we have mainly experienced on this trip, Professor Takahashi talked about her experience with the fishing community via an alternate route, one based on the hopes of reconstruction and promises from the companies/government. In addition, Professor Satsuki mentioned her recent work on aquariums to conclude that aquariums are between art museums and zoos in terms of planned aesthetic reasons. Zoos have the interest of animals in mind while planning the exhibits while aquariums meticulous recreate the ecosystems to look more “natural.” This coupled with ambient lighting and comfortable air conditioning makes aquarium going a popular date spot compared to the zoos oversaturated with rampaging children. The lecture was engaging and opened up a very different (yet similar for me) way to look at post 3/11 from an anthropological POV. Overall, I would like to say that I feel “inadequate” at times when I reply to people that I am *only* an Asian Studies major (no double major, no minor, and not enough interest to continue into academia). But, as we saw during the lecture, history repeats itself and human memory has the magical (fortunate or not) quality to forget. Being able to learn from past mistakes and improve is something we have been working on since preschool, yet we are still not very good at it, especially when they are larger projects involving multiple parties’ interests. I believe that Professor Takahashi gave us a powerful view of the people (and remembered the people through communication). Instead of focusing on the disaster and showing the people as “sufferers,” she spoke about the efforts to rebuild and to redefine, even though the exact visions are vague and can still be easily manipulated by unequal power exchanges.

The nostalgic futurism and the “hope” are two ideas that I have frequently encountered in my class about contemporary India the past semester. I would like to take the following post to condense some thoughts (I wrote my first essay for the class on this!):

  • The formation of Pakistan: Pakistan, the name, can either represent “the land of the pure” or symbolize an acronym of the regions it was constructed from. The problem with the vision of Pakistan was the “purity” of it. While not many people would object the idea of “pure,” few could really agree on the same definition of “pure.” Precisely, because of the inability to concretely define the vision, conflicts arose and the outcome of the state did not match the vision of some of the independence leaders. The idea of “hope” is a very powerful tool. Yet, it is constantly abused to pacify the people. Hope allows dreaming for a better future, but the ambiguity allows for easy manipulation.
  • Second is the appropriation of history as in nostalgic futurism, which happens too often and too widely in history, so I will talk about in a broader context: The “desensitization” of trauma and tragedy has occurred for the residents, who have suffered and trekked through multiple disasters in the last century. While each circumstance is different in the exact causes, there are common themes of the human-made disasters and the cycles of “progress.” Yet, we, maybe evolutionarily/psychologically inclined, repackage the tragedy and cannot recognize the trends. How shall we ever learn? My peers were surprised to learn the existence of nuclear fish hatcheries. It is also my first time hearing about the projects, but I was not shocked to see why these plants would exist. Although the water used is filtered via nuclear plants, the fishing community uses the water because it is a win-win situation as Professor Takahashi noted. I think with an explanation from the officials as well as the economic benefit, the fishing communities are willing to agree (especially since fishing tends not to be the most lucrative profession recently). It’s not (what I would say) a short-sighted decision. I think it makes sense to think about it as: I can use the water and get some good out of it (with supposedly no harmful effects) or not use it at all. Furthermore, if there were to be a nuclear accident, the nuclear hatcheries would be the least of my problems since the future of fishing will remain unknown.(This is written quite late at night and I get very ramble-y.)

At night, we went to the National Theatre to watch an annotated version of kabuki. SO GLAD WE WENT. As a devoted theater techie, I love being in the audience seat for once (although I would have GLADLY explored the light booth and backstage/understage/fly gallery). I enjoyed the performance and learning about the power/gender dynamics of kabuki, but personally, I am really proud of how far I have come since day 1 of college in terms of technical theater. College was my first exposure at the theater, in general, and of course tech. Through the last two years, I have learned so much technical knowledge from lighting to sewing to moping as well as how to be a considerate audience/caretaker (imagine taking care of actors) and still maintain a sense of humor. I have grown great respect for theater in general, especially for its subversive tendencies (which even exists in kabuki). (Who said theater is “useless”?) The countless hours of rehearsals and cooperation (and stamina) between the performers, musicians, and stage crew are unimaginable for the audience, just to produce an enjoyable performance. (Again, it was great to have Noto-san, a kabuki fan, to explain some of the customs of kabuki.) Lots of love for theater and hope everyone can learn to appreciate it!


P.S. I love bubble money and theatres. Cushy rugs, gorgeous chandeliers, dazzling bathrooms, and comfortable room temperature. Wonderful experience.


Author: Gerlin Leu '19

Hello readers! I am Gerlin, an Asian Studies major focusing on religion in South (and Southeast) Asia (although thinking about pursuing academic studies about food culture and power.) I have been studying Japanese for two years now. My original plan was to look at religious NPO's collaborative efforts after 3/11 and how that has redefined the role of religion in society. I am currently also very obsessed with the theories of subaltern and postcolonialism, so these themes will echo through my posts. I enjoy taking photos and talking in person (more than blogging). じゃ、よろしくお願いします。