In her book A World Otherwise: Environmental Praxis in Minamata, Yuki Miyamoto examines the struggles of those suffering from Minamata disease, eponymous with the Japanese city in which a Chisso factory released methylmercury into the Shiranui Sea, leading to widespread poisonings. Miyamoto explores Minamata sufferers’ struggles, examining their physical pains as well as the emotional plight of having lost their loved ones, their livelihood, and fellowship in communities, to the illness. Miyamoto’s analysis focuses on the philosophies and actions of a group, Hongan no kai, comprised of Minamata disease sufferers and their supporters in 1994. Relying on the group’s newsletter, “Tamashii utsure” (Transferring the spirit), this monograph explores the ways in which Hongan no kai members have come to terms with their experiences as well as their visions of “a world otherwise” (janaka shaba), where ontology, epistemology, and worldviews are construed differently from those of this modern world.
Yuki Miyamoto is associate professor at DePaul University.
Chapter 1: Janaka Shaba or A World Otherwise
Chapter 2: Modernization, Mercury, and Minamata
Chapter 3: The World of the Minamata Fishers: Forgiveness, Gift (nosari), and the Sugimoto Family
Chapter 4: Before Good and Evil: Ogata Masato on Spirit/Tamashii
Chapter 5: Literature of Dystopia: Ishimure Michiko and the Fragile Power of the Precariousness
Chapter 6: Genius Loci and the Discourse of Home
Chapter 7: Hongan no Kai and Spiritual Praxis as an Environmental Ethics
This important book investigates how religious worldviews influence survivors' views of industrial pollution at Minamata, one of Japan's best known cases of methylmercury contamination. Through interviews with members of the group Hongan no kai (Association of the Original Vow) and deep readings of their publications, Miyamoto integrates the voices, thoughts, and actions of those who have suffered because of Japan's industrial growth and social discrimination. Observers familiar with the ongoing disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plants and the resulting radioactive contamination will see many grim parallels here.
Yuki Miyamoto illuminates a sophisticated vision of a better world—‘a world otherwise'—in compelling, approachable language. Japan's disastrous methylmercury poisoning in Minamata serves as her springboard for arguing that modernity's commitment to autonomous individuality lies behind our destruction of the natural world. Only a new environmental ethic rooted in mutuality and humility can stem the poison tide of a devastated planet.
A World Otherwise illuminates a new environmental ethics that arose out of Japan’s most consequential ecopolitical movement. Framed as a study of the group Hongan no kai, Miyamoto's timely work shows how decades of political resistance to corporate and government institutions produced a philosophy that challenges the instrumentalization of environment by imagining ‘a world otherwise.’ The ontological vision for this ‘world otherwise’ emphasizes relations among human and more-than-human agents. Miyamoto deftly lays out the decades of twists and turns in thought and action that produced an ontology that situates human selves within assemblages of entities rendered invisible by modern institutions.