Reflecting on the legacy of Fusako Shigenobu

While my publications here have been less than minimal these past months, I have published work elsewhere.

I recently contributed two articles on the legacy of Fusako Shigenobu, the former leader of the Japanese Red Army who was finally released from prison in late May.

fusako shigenobu famous image

fusako shigenobu rifle gun

I wrote one, “The Complex Legacy of Fusako Shigenobu’s Years in the Middle East”, for the Abu Dhabi newspaper The National, focused on the two “versions” of Shigenobu that seem to exist in the social imaginary (as a infamous terrorist mastermind and as a glamorous leftist revolutionary), and argue that neither is accurate.

The second article, “Shigenobu Fusako and the Haze of Cultural Memory”, written for the Critical Asian Studies Commentary Board, is longer and more in depth, once again setting out to debunk some of the misinformation and misconceptions about Shigenobu that have persisted for various reasons, especially in the mainstream media’s treatment of her. I examine several examples of how the media has portrayed her over the decades and take this further to explore the mishmash approach to the Long Sixties that has emerged in cultural memory, perpetuated by the mass media and, to some extent, researchers and writers (including myself).

I also invite people to read Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda’s valuable translation of Shigenobu’s final newsletter from behind bars, which she has made available online.

With Shigenobu’s release and first public appearance in more than two decades, we will surely see more discourse about her activism as well as the broader legacy of the Japanese Red Army and the radical Left. Some of this may come from Shigenobu herself, health permitting.

WILLIAM ANDREWS

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