Koza X MiXtopia Research Center
Koza X MiXtopia Research Center was established on June 2, 2019, in the Teruya district of Okinawa City (formerly, Koza) with a 5-Year Plan to build a solid foundation to pass on to the next team of creative individuals who carry the center's vision and mission forward in the imagination and the possibilities available of their time and place.
Currently, the center serves as an experimental research lab to conduct research, hold events, and build archives. The center is interested in how knowledge is produced (who, what, when, where, and why).
Everyday people, things, and objects. Experienced is embodied knowledge.
At Koza X MiXtopia Research Center, the objective is to develop a set of postwar archives of the Koza Crossroads which includes five municipalities of Koza cities: Shiromae, Yoshihara, Yaejima, Miyazato, and Teruya. Impacted by the war and occupation, these districts became an epicenter of Okinawa's economy serving as bustling and hustling places of trade, business, and market. The Crossroads also became a place of mixed racial/ethnic/cultural/linguistic/national geographies.
The center will employ a pedagogy of MiXtory (history, story, mystery) and yuntakuview, an informal interview style that brings together an element of Okinawa's everyday chatting (yuntaku) and the academic method of interview. Both pedagogies emerged as a method/technique akin to performance art/life, during Ariko Ikehara's dissertation fieldwork in Koza.
Performance art/life as a method requires a process of exploration that leads to the discovery of new information and directs us to see things that we would not see otherwise if we follow only what we already see/know, The center considers important both the scientific and humanistic approaches to research, however, the role of the process - chance, word of mouth, connections, and relationships in everyday life in gathering information - is imperative.
Through the process, we find boundless creativity, imagination, and freedom and the value of the lived experiences that are co-produced in collaboration and partnerships with others.
First, we learn from this history how people lived in a mixed community in which race, ethnicity, class, gender, language became secondary to people's will to live under the extreme conditions of the aftermath of war and the occupation. Second, the center bridges people and the histories and stories that are otherwise forgotten but intricately linked to understanding our unseen connections to each other. Thirdly, the center serves as a space of return for those who left the Crossroads to reclaim their place in history and to tell their stories that may fill in the blanks of mystery. Ultimately, the center serves to unite those who left and and those who wait for the return of loved ones for whom they lost contact due to various circumstances. Here, possibilities abound.
The center's activities are built on a three-tier program of academia, art, and community. With a five-year plan, the center's goal is to build a foundation upon which the next generation of creators can build. Each year is designated in one of the three areas: year-one, academic, year-two, art, and year-three, community. While each year is designed for one of the programs, they work all together in tandem and as a unit. The plan for the fourth and the fifth year is to enhance and grow these three programming areas with mentoring, training and collaboration. This will allow us to pass the torch on to the next generation of creative entrepreneurs who will take charge of the future by thinking outside the box.
Collectively, the programs function as a unit to archive the history of Koza, a city intertwined with histories and cultures of Okinawa, Japan, and the U.S. Moreover, the activities, as a standard practice, experiment with new approaches (performance art praxis) to push the threshold of the ideological boundaries of what is thought to be impossible. Finding possibility in the "impossibility" requires wild imagination and unyielding creativity.
Making A Difference
Currently, we have two projects in progress: Map of Teruya and MiXtory.
The Map of Teruya archives the business (formal and informal economy) operated during the occupation until 1976
MiXtory is a method of gathering information that consists of history, story, and mystery. The mystery is a placeholder for the unknown part of history or story that will be filled later as people tell their stories. These stories are randomly gathered through people who come to the center and voluntarily offer their stories in yuntakuview (yuntaku/chat and interview).
Ideas and materials for the exhibits come from MiXtory that people share, and as such these exhibits embody the voices and experiences of the people who are the co-producer of knowledge about the place.
At Koza X MiXtopia Research Center, we are involved in the current project in the plans to rebuilding the community impacted by the long periods of the economic downturn. As a member of an ad-hoc association called Torino kai, we meet, discuss, and plan how we as individuals can assit in realizing the goals of creating a viable future of this place. In that endeavor, the center works with the stakeholders from various specters of society locally and internationally.
Ariko S. Ikehara is a Director at Koza X MiXtopia Research Center in Okinawa. She earned her Ph.D. in Comparative Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley in 2016. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Osaka University (2017_19), and a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Gender and Women Studies at UC Berkeley (2016). Her peer-reviewed published works are “Champurū Text: Postwar Okinawan Writing,” Beyond American Occupation: Race and Agency in Okinawa, 1945-2015. Lexington Press. 2017., and “Third Space as Decolonial Con/Text: Okinawa’s American Champurū.” Transnational Asia: An Online Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol. 1-1. Fall, 2016. Chao Center for Asian Studies, Rice University. She is currently working on a book manuscript entitled ‘‘Okinawa’s MiXtopia: Teruya Soul MiXtory”, which is a study of a place called The Black District that existed during the American occupation on Okinawa.