Douglas Lummis

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I was born in San Francisco in 1936, and raised partly there and partly in the Sierra Nevada. I entered U.C. Berkeley in 1954 on a Navy ROTC contract, and accordingly, when I graduated in 1958 I entered the U.S. Marines for three years, the third of which I spent in a military base on Okinawa. (Much of my life since then has been spent trying to figure out how I could have let such a thing happen.)

I spent the years 1961-3 in Nara and Kyoto, Japan, and returned to U.C. Berkeley in 1963 to study political theory, just in time for the Free Speech Movement and all that followed. In 1968 I returned to Japan ostensibly to write a Ph.D. thesis, but in fact spent the better part of my time working in the anti-Vietnam war movement there (or, at the time of this writing, "here"). I did get the thesis done, however (A Critique of American Modernization Theory, 1973, unpublished, available in the UCB library and probably nowhere else).

After a few years as a migratory academic worker in Japan and in the U.S., I took a job at Tsuda College, Tokyo, where I continued until my retirement in March, 2000. My writings over these years (mostly published in Japanese) have focused on several themes: the peculiar forms that stereotyping and discrimination take in the case of Japan (e.g. English Conversation as Ideology, 1976; A New Look at The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, 1982); studies from a political theory perspective of Japan's war-renouncing Constitution (e.g. Japan's Radical Constitution, 1987; another work due out this year, as yet untitled); and searches for a radical political perspective that does not depend on Marxism (e.g. Radical Democracy, Cornell, 1996).

My first encounter with the name Ivan Illich was when I was teaching at an experimental college in Washington State in the early '70s, and the new age teachers would wave Deschooling Society in our faces alleging that it proved that teaching anything of substance to students was a violent usurpation of authority, and that we should all be facilitators. It was only when I met Illich many years later on one of his trips to Japan that I learned that he was not to be blamed for his U.S. West Coast interpreters.

Participating in the Development Dictionary project was one of the happiest academic experiences I have had, and reminded me that mutual support, rather than mutual attack, really does produce a higher quality of work. I hope and trust that this new gathering in Oakland will have the same feel.

Selected Bibliography

Douglas Lummis's Talk

Sept 9 2000: Democracy and Place

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