Overland literary journal: For the Liberation of Onna

By Dougal McNeill
Overland literary journal

shigematsu_scream coverThere is a fantastic passage from Angela Davis I often see quoted in activist publications. In it she asks how do ‘we learn how to come together? […] How can we come together in a unity that is not simplistic and oppressive, but complex and emancipatory?’ Davis’ questions are important – they’re my unanswered questions – and feel all the more useful for remaining questions, demands for exploration and inquiry. We, collectively, have failed to produce these kinds of successful insurgent and revolutionary spaces and organisations. A quick glance at the world around us enforces strict adherence to the Beckettian slogan: time to keep failing better.

Uman ribu was an explosively radical, restless, artfully angry constellation of women’s liberation groups and collective thinkers who emerged out of Japan’s New Left in the 1970s. Ribu aimed, in its fusing of life experiences, activist intervention and theoretical reflection, to offer ways out of some familiar Left impasses. And Setsu Shigematsu’s Scream from the Shadows, an English-language history of and theoretical reflection on the movement, ought to become a reference point for many of us. This is a very important work, written with the same passionate and searching intellectual and political integrity as its subjects lived their politics, and is a model of engaged, critical scholarship. The detailed history, unfamiliar to readers used to Anglophone histories of the New Left, is of great interest in itself; Shigematsu draws it into conversation with contemporary concerns.

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