From Farm to Base: Post-War Economic Rehabilitation and the Emergence of the Base Worker in US-Occupied Okinawa
Military work in Okinawa is the symbol of US occupation in the post-war period. Existing scholarship sheds light on the details of the regime of military work, the participation of the local population in this regime, and the impact of the military economy on the local community. This paper, however, revisits the history of military work by prioritizing a postcolonial viewpoint with a focus on the emergence of military work and on how the US propagated their efforts towards economic recovery through Shurei no Hikari, a community magazine published in post-war Okinawa. It argues that military work symbolizes the commodification of what can be described as “surplus population” that the US during the Cold War relied on in its pursuit of anti-Communist activities. Focusing on the structure of military work and its impact on the local population, my argument is twofold. First, I argue that the US occupation expropriated Okinawans’ indigenous land and means of production for the sake of an expansion of US military installations, and thus produced a colonial surplus population that they mobilized as a labour force for Cold War military activity. Second, it reveals how the commodification of the local labour force in the context of military work was justified by a pacification of US occupation activities.