Alexander Bukh – These Islands are Ours

This week, Alexander Bukh tells us more about his book and what inspires him:

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Describe your book

These Islands Are Ours examines the territorial disputes in Northeast Asia. It explores the domestic socio-political processes in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, that led to the emergence and diffusion of the idea that the disputed islands are of utmost importance to the nation. The main focus of my book are non-state actors such as civil society groups and their role in these processes. 

What motivated you to write this book?

I grew up in the Soviet Union and Israel-two countries where the belief in the nation was central to the education process. In my late teens, my personal experience but also exposure to various books and individuals, made me question both ideologies. At the same time, I developed a fascination with nationalism and its various forms. While conducting research for my previous project I encountered several individuals in Japan and Korea who devote most of their free time to territorial disputes related activism and developed a personal relationship with them. I also realized that territorial disputes are mostly discussed from a state-level perspective and the stories of people affected by these disputes in one way or another usually remain obscure. All this motivated me to write this book.        

Do you enjoy the writing process?

Yes, but only when I write the Conclusion. Otherwise, it is quite a painful process.

What is your favourite book? Why?

There are many books that I love and learned from but Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s “In the Grove” is probably one that I recommend my students most often. It is a short story that questions the human’s ability to perceive reality as an objective truth. 

What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given to you?

Mark Twain. “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

Who inspires you?

People that are not afraid to question conventions and go against the stream.

What’s next?

My next research project is on Japan-Korea relations in the post WWII period. 

Alexander Bukh is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington. He is the author of These Islands Are Ours (Stanford University Press, 2020) and Japan’s National 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).