Transpacific Antiracism

Afro-Asian Solidarity in 20th-Century Black America, Japan, and Okinawa

254 pages

4 halftones

July, 2013

ISBN: 9780814762646



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Yuichiro Onishi is Assistant Professor of African American & African Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

All books by Yuichiro Onishi

Transpacific Antiracism introduces the dynamic process out of which social movements in Black America, Japan, and Okinawa formed Afro-Asian solidarities against the practice of white supremacy in the twentieth century. Yuichiro Onishi argues that in the context of forging Afro-Asian solidarities, race emerged as a political category of struggle with a distinct moral quality and vitality.
This book explores the work of Black intellectual-activists of the first half of the twentieth century, including Hubert Harrison and W. E. B. Du Bois, that took a pro-Japan stance to articulate the connection between local and global dimensions of antiracism. Turning to two places rarely seen as a part of the Black experience, Japan and Okinawa, the book also presents the accounts of a group of Japanese scholars shaping the Black studies movement in post-surrender Japan and multiracial coalition-building in U.S.-occupied Okinawa during the height of the Vietnam War which brought together local activists, peace activists, and antiracist and antiwar GIs. Together these cases of Afro-Asian solidarity make known political discourses and projects that reworked the concept of race to become a wellspring of aspiration for a new society.


  • In this exhaustively researched and beautifully written book, Onishi uncovers a hidden history of Afro-Asian radicalism and internationalism. He presents bold and generative arguments about the ways in which the affiliation of kindred spirits across the Pacific enabled anti-racist intellectuals and activists from Japan and the U.S. to forge a new philosophy of world history and formulate practical programs for liberation.

    —George Lipsitz, author of How Racism Takes Place

  • This fascinating and ground-breaking book offers a new window into the vital history of Afro-Asian solidarity against empire and white supremacy. Meticulously researched, it recovers the epistemological breakthroughs that emerged at the intersection of radical struggle and geographical reorientation. Through his sharp analysis of cross-cultural and transnational collectivity, Onishi provides a guidepost for all those interested in the study of utopian, boundary-crossing projects of the past, as well as the creation of future ones.

    —Scott Kurashige, author of The Shifting Grounds of Race and co-author of The Next American Revolution

  • “[Onishi] adds to the new, growing, but still under-studied scholarly field of African Americans in the transpacific context.”

    —Y. Kiuchi, Choice

  • “Yuichiro Onishi’s Transpacific Antiracism is a unique and valuable contribution to the scholarship on Afro-Asian relations…there are things that Onishi does that few have done before.”

    American Studies

  • “…Transpacific Antiracism contributes invaluably to the study of social movements. . . . It beautifully captures the desire of oppressed people to develop revolutionary ideas and practices by learning from 'ancestors' whose skin color might have differed from their own.”

    Against the Current

  • “In its best moments, Transnational Antiracism offers a complex and multifaceted understanding of international struggles for liberation and solidarity as occurring organically from the bottom up.  History should ideally be seen as making sense of the big picture through an account of the smaller fragments and individuals who lived within the moments in question.  At times, Onishi shows that his mastery of this aforementioned point is most profound. . . . Scholars of contemporary African American and Japanese history stand to gain much from Onishi’s efforts. Transpacific Anitracism reminds us that any striving towards mutual understanding and change is a utopian dream, both fragile and fleeting.  In doing so, Onishi has helped to expand our understanding of what Afro-Asian solidarity was in times past and can be in times yet to come.”

    Social Science Japan Journal

  • “By tracing the spread of racial discourse through expressive and political texts rather than individuals, Onishi shows how ideas flow in less regulated ways. Transpacific antiracism can be found in various discourses of liberation and freedom and forms the foundation for Afro-Asian solidarity. By focusing on the way black thought intervenes in black internationalism informed by Japan’s global aspirations, the book continues the excavation work on various modes of Afro-Asian dynamics. This work continues to expand our notions of black intellectualism by making it part of a global intellectual tradition that impacts a wide range of groups and individuals engaged in liberation work.”

    Journal of American Studies

  • “…Onishi is unapologetically hopeful that another world is possible. He ends the book with a story about a time when he taught African American studies to a class of mostly African descent. It was challenging for all involved, but they managed to create a discursive space of understanding. As Onishi concludes: 'contained in this experience was a tale of utopian potential.'”

    The Journal of American History

  • “Yuichiro Onishi has provided several interesting case studies of groups that hoped to forge a trans-Pacific coalition against imperialism and racism.”


  • Transpacific Antiracism intervenes superbly in the new and growing body of historical scholarship on Afro-Asian radicalism. It should be required reading for historians interested in complicating the historical narratives on the ‘United States in the world’ by placing it within an African American, transpacific context.”

    Journal of African American History