"The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the coming of the dusk."
This quote from the famous German philosopher Hegel (in the "Philosophy of Right"), quite aptly describes the method by which we often inquire about our reality.
Minerva, as you may know, is the famous Roman goddess of war (her Greek counterpart is Athena). The owl of Minerva (or Athena) is often used to symbolize wisdom and knowledge. So what Hegel is attempting to convey here is simple:
Wisdom and knowledge comes from reflecting upon our past in hindsight.
Notwithstanding the various philosophical and epistemological problems associated with this quote, it grasps the essence of my journey to better imagine and understand our world.
My name is Hosanna Fukuzawa, and I'm here to tell you a story. A story about our reality through the eyes of the owl of Minerva. Looking back, reflecting, and possibly imagining the wisdom we can derive from our past and present.
For now, I have two main focuses for my research: suicide and spaces of freedom.
The core of my research focuses on the issue of suicide, the eternal riddle that has kept the best and most privileged minds of homo sapiens busy.
Karl Marx began his inquiry upon socio-political struggles when he saw the bourgeoisie of his time complain, struggle, and despair regardless of their immense wealth. Albert Camus called suicide the one truly philosophical problem.
Suicide is also surprisingly difficult to define.
Are the thousands of self-isolated people in Japan who are slowly dying off alone resorting to suicide (in an elongated and slow manner)? Can the famous crucifixion of Jesus Christ be understood as such? How about those who take their own lives due to immense destitution, in which it is impossible to escape with their own agency?
The questions continue.
I am also part of the Critical Suicidology Network, which attempts to better understand, theorize, and intervene in suicide from new and alternate perspectives, where the traditional method has been failing entirely.
Spaces of Freedom
Spaces of freedom, inspired by the Japanese historian Amino Yoshihiko, denotes places (both physical, symbolic, and spiritual) where people can find refuge and regain a sense of autonomy over their lives.
These places are when upon entry, worldly ties, marriage, or even authority becomes null. In medieval Japan, these places took the form of temples, markets, or even mountains and the sea.
Once people – such as abused wives – fled into such a temple, the husband or the authorities could not coerce them to return. They were legally, culturally, symbolically, and physically free from the bonds of marriage.
We see similar examples of these in the modern-day.
Take the "anchor outs" in the bay area of California, as reported recently by Vice News. These people escape the legal and cultural norms of living on land or paying taxes and rent by living out on the water on their boats.
Or as one of my favorite scholars James Scott theorizes, the famous "dark ages" in which no centralized power could exert influence and write a history of the world, was actually an unprecedented time of freedom away from coercive states.
Examples are abundant: the Great Dismal swamp, the mountains of South East Asia, or the Nanjing Safety Zone during the infamous Nanjing Rape/Massacre inflicted upon the local population by the Imperial Japanese army. And of course, we can not ignore a new dimension to this: the internet.
What is less understood is what happens in these spaces. How they emerge, why they disappear. The cost incurred of entry, the value earned. My hope is that such spaces are better understood and possibly, imagined.
Updated April 16, 2022