Cocco’s musical intervention in the US base problems: traversing a realm of everyday cultural sensibilities in Okinawa
Masamichi S. INOUE
ABSTRACT This essay intervenes in the political contradiction between the pro-base and anti-base positions in Okinawa while at the same time seeking to provide an alternative to the binary at the level of everyday cultural sensibilities. I will accomplish this task by exploring the activities of charismatic Okinawan musician-artist-activist Cocco. More specifically, locating Cocco’s music within – and also outside – a long, complicated genealogy of Okinawan popular music, I will trace how she has grounded the formal political problems of the US military in Okinawa’s everyday dilemmas concerning money, memory, and globalization. In my view, Cocco has done so in a way that prods us to move beyond the pro-base/anti-base binary and to navigate an uncharted realm of culture, power, and history. I will also pay attention to how the audience in Okinawa and beyond, as a co-producer of Cocco’s music community, has participated in this process. In so doing, I will show how Cocco’s music has brought to light possibilities of transforming the existing political inequalities from below, possibilities that may be destined to disappear as soon as they are materialized as an explicit political program. Theoretically, I will articulate these possibilities in reference to what French writer-critic-philosopher Maurice Blanchot (1908-2003) once called the ‘unavowable community’ (1988). Methodologically, such possibilities are explored with what Cooley, Meizel, and Syed (2008) call the ‘virtual fieldwork’ of technologically mediated realities (e.g. DVDs, online videos, posts of audiences on the internet).
KEYWORDS: popular music, everyday culture, Okinawa, the US Military.
Masamichi (‘Marro’) S. Inoue received his Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from Duke University and is associate professor of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures, and Cultures and the Japan Studies Program at the University of Kentucky. He has written extensively on the US base problems in Okinawa in both English and Japanese. His publication includes Okinawa and the US Military: Identity Making in the Age of Globalization (2007, Columbia University Press). In addition to exploring cultural-political issues of Okinawa and Japan, he is currently conducting an ethnographic investigation of the college campus security issues in the US.