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Humanities 2016, 5(3), 59; doi:10.3390/h5030059

Signifying Ainu Space: Reimagining Shiretoko’s Landscapes through Indigenous Ecotourism1

Department of East Asian Languages & Cultural Studies, HSSB 4001, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9670, USA
Academic Editors: Karen L. Thornber and Tom Havens
Received: 11 November 2015 / Accepted: 18 December 2015 / Published: 15 July 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Indigeneities and the Environment)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [259 KB, uploaded 15 July 2016]

Abstract

Recognized as Japan’s indigenous peoples in 2008, the Ainu people of Hokkaido have sought to recuperate land and self-determination by physically reenacting Ainu traditional knowledge through ecotourism in Hokkaido. Colonization and assimilation have severed most contemporary Ainu from relations with nonhuman sentient beings (A. kamuy) rooted in land and waterways. Ecotourism provides a context for reenacting an ancestral ontology through engaging in wild food gathering, relearning subsistence practices for cultural transmission, and reinscribing Ainu cultural logics onto the land through stewardship and language. At the same time, the Japanese government’s campaign to have Siretok nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage site can be interpreted as an attempt to legitimate Japanese claims to Shiretoko and reinscribe the authority of Japan, as both the proper steward to ensure responsible conservation of Shiretoko but also the rightful owner and proper occupant of the promontory and its surrounding waterways. The article reveals how Ainu attempts to establish relationships and assert ancestral claims with the kamuy in the landscape are stymied by the ongoing reality of settler colonialism and erasure of Ainu presence in the landscape. Further, it explores how a capitalist-driven economy of ecotourism unleashes new dynamics in relations between local Ainu fishers and farmers in Shiretoko and outsider Ainu who seek to develop ecotourist initiatives. View Full-Text
Keywords: indigenous activism; Ainu; Japan; world heritage; ecotourism; settler colonialism; traditional ecological knowledge; indigenous space; ecological colonialism indigenous activism; Ainu; Japan; world heritage; ecotourism; settler colonialism; traditional ecological knowledge; indigenous space; ecological colonialism
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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lewallen, A.-E. Signifying Ainu Space: Reimagining Shiretoko’s Landscapes through Indigenous Ecotourism1. Humanities 2016, 5, 59.

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