chapter  12
Shifting the axis: feminism and the transnational imaginary
Pages 19

On a cool winter’s day in December 2001, a small group of women of several nationalities stood outside a public hall in central Tokyo, not far from major public buildings such as the Diet building, the National Diet Library and the headquarters of the major political parties. They were dressed in black from head to toe, faces covered in black veils, and they stood in silent vigil; no words issued from their mouths, no signs or placards announced the purpose of their vigil. These women were affiliated with an international movement called ‘women in black’; and their practice is to stand in public places, silently mourning the women who have been the victims of institutionalized violence and human rights abuses. The first such demonstrations were carried out by Israeli, Palestinian and American women in 1988. Since then, such demonstrations have been carried out around the world, including protests against the war in the former Yugoslavia and vigils associated with the terrorist attacks in the USA in September 2001 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (Women in Black 2003). By staging a vigil as ‘women in black’, these women were performing a visual affirmation of their links with women’s groups around the world, staking a claim to the use of public space and providing a visual affirmation of their place in what might be called a ‘transnational imaginary’.