Territorial disputes are one of the main sources of tension in Northeast Asia. Escalation in such conflicts often stems from a widely shared public perception that the territory in question is of the utmost importance to the nation. While that's frequently not true in economic, military, or political terms, citizens' groups and other domestic actors throughout the region have mounted sustained campaigns to protect or recover disputed islands. Quite often, these campaigns have wide-ranging domestic and international consequences.
Why and how do territorial disputes that at one point mattered little, become salient? Focusing on non-state actors rather than political elites, Alexander Bukh explains how and why apparently inconsequential territories become central to national discourse in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. These Islands Are Ours challenges the conventional wisdom that disputes-related campaigns originate in the desire to protect national territory and traces their roots to times of crisis in the respective societies. This book gives us a new way to understand the nature of territorial disputes and how they inform national identities by exploring the processes of their social construction, and amplification.
Alexander Bukh is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington. He is the author of Japan's Identity and Foreign Policy: Russia as Japan's 'Other' (2009) and the producer and co-director of the documentary This Island Is Ours: Defending Dokdo/Retrieving Takeshima (2016).