SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

Rebellious Youth in the Global 1960s: Youth, Propaganda, and Political Violence

Gerteis Abstract Img
Dr Christopher Gerteis (SOAS University of London)

Date: 13 December 2017Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 13 December 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: KLT

Type of Event: Seminar


Mao Zedong’s call in May 1966 for a ‘Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’ to tear-down China’s Communist old guard set loose millions of Chinese youth on a decade-long rampage of political violence. China’s Cultural Revolution also had significant impact on a generation of youth outside China – European, American, African and Asian –  who by the late 1960s were motived to radically alter the political status quo. This talk examines the global comparative context of left-wing youth radicalism by looking at the cultural and political forces that influenced the life trajectories of members of the Nihon Sekigun (Japanese Red Army) most responsible for high-profile acts of political violence in Japan and abroad.

Nihon Sekigun only attracted a few dozen members-under-arms; yet, its brief international moment between 1971 and 1976 had significant impact on the social, cultural and political space within which Japan, and the Japanese, lived. A trans-national flow of ideas informed the migration of a hand-full of Nihon Sekigun activists between Japan and Communist China and North Korea, Western and Eastern Europe, North and South America, and even the Middle East.

Deeply influenced by the Marxist-Leninism debated within the leftist student movement of the late 1960s, as well as the interpretations of ‘Mao Thought’ that informed the rise of revolutionary groups across the world during the 1970s, the newly founded international wing of Nihon Sekigun, under the defacto leadership of Shigenobu Fusako, sought to use its alliance with the Marxist revolutionary group People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to foster a liminal space for young Japanese radicals to imagine revolution outside the parochial borders of Japan. Shigenobu and her revolutionary cadres in Lebanon presented a hyper-sexualized image of the international Sekigun guerilla – willing to take up a gun and fight world revolution – as the embodiment of what it meant to be a young Japanese radical.

 Speaker Biography

Dr Christopher Gerteis (SOAS University of London, United Kingdom) is Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in the History of Contemporary Japan. He is author of Gender Struggles: Wage-earning Women and Male-Dominated Unions in Postwar Japan. (Harvard University Press, 2009); co-editor of Japan since 1945: from Postwar to Post-Bubble. (Bloomsbury, 2012); and editor of Critical Readings on the History of Industrialization in Modern Japan (3 vols). (Brill, 2012). He is founding editor of the SOAS Studies in Modern and Contemporary Japan, a peerreviewed scholarly monograph series published in association with Bloomsbury (, and Senior Editor of Japan Forum, the journal of the British Association for Japanese Studies. He is currently finishing a book manuscript, Angry, Young and Mobile: Blue-Collar Youth and Radical Politics in Postwar Japan, which investigates the process of political radicalization among socially alienated Japanese youth from the early 1950s to the early-1990s.



Organiser: Centres & Programmes Office and SOAS Japan Research Centre

Contact email: