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The 250-word essay that got me a $300 travel scholarship to attend Fukushima symposium

Date: April 24, 2012

Here’s a 250-word essay I submitted to the scholarship committee of the upcoming Atomic Age II: Fukushima symposium at University of Chicago to explain why I wanted to attend it. Luckily I was one of the ten individuals (out of about 30 who applied for it) to receive the $300 travel scholarship. Apparently, I was the only person who mentioned anything about gender, race, and sexuality, which is kind of sad, but it was good for me because it made my essay unique and interesting. Here goes:


I have a long history of involvement in various movements for social and economic justice such as those around domestic and sexual violence, queer and trans liberation, disability rights, and others, but I have largely avoided political movements dealing with larger national and international geopolitics like the war and the use of nuclear technology–those political issues considered “important” by the (white male) Left–notwithstanding my strong stance against both. It was partly because I was alienated by the (white male) leadership of these movements, but it was also because I was fortunate/privileged enough to feel that the threat of war and nuclear disasters were distant for me, compared to the more direct threat of everyday sexism, racism, homophobia, and ableism.

But the recent earthquake and the nuclear disaster that followed it have exposed how vulnerable we all are to this kind of threats, and activists and progressive journalists from Fukushima and beyond reminded me that harsh realities facing women, foreigners, queer people, and people with disabilities are exacerbated by the crisis, rather than existing in isolation from the larger political events. I am particularly interested in listening to Ms. Muto for the experiences of women in Fukushima, and Ms. Paul for how women in the U.S. are addressing the issue of nuclear energy and weaponry in the context of environmental racism and classism.

I also plan to share my experiences at Atomic Age with Tadaima, a radical Japanese-American group in Seattle whose members are planning to visit Japan this summer.


By the way, the symposium itself is free and open to the public. I also heard that they provide breakfast and lunch in some form. Plus, it’d be super incredible to hear Ms. Muto in person.