Worldwide Wan



Eulogies to Kazuko Takemura

2012.07.07 Sat

To honor the memory of the late Kazuko Takemura, a feminist famous for her activism as well as introducing theorists such as Judith Butler to Japan, WAN is posting a series of eulogies delivered by her fellow activists and scholars both from Japan and overseas.

“It was my incredible fortune to have known Kazuko. I met her for the first time when I went to Japan in the summer of 2008. As the host of my visit at her university, she offered me the most thoughtful, hospitable, and generous treatment any guest can hope to have. We met again in 2009, when she was a visiting professor at UC Berkeley. She kindly drove me from San Francisco Davis, where I was to give a talk. Although the times we had together were brief, I was deeply moved by Kazuko’s intellectual and political energies. Seldom have I met someone who is as filled with personal charm, courage, and
humor as she. Most of all she taught us what it means to love. I will miss her forever.”
–Rey Chow, Anne Firor Scott Professor of Literature at Duke University

“My first contact with Kazuko Takemura was indirect. Indeed, she was not even aware of it. Rey Chow, our common friend, then at Brown University and now at Duke University, had written to me saying that Kazuko would be visiting Berkeley for a year, and asked if i knew of anyone who had an apartment close to the university to sublet. I sent Rey information about an apartment that Kazuko subsequently rented but Rey had not given Kazuko my name. Feminist academic networks work in silent and invisible ways. I first met Kazuko after a reading and book reception for my co-edited collection Derrida and the Time of the Political. She came up after the brief remarks by me, Suzanne Guerlac and Martin Jay and introduced herself. It was only later, over a dim sum lunch, that we realized we had already been linked in many ways. She had long had a connection to Berkeley as the translator of my colleagues, Trinh Minh-ha’s and Judith Butler’s writings. At that lunch and subsequently, we spoke of the difficulty of translating theory into Asian languages among many other topics including deconstruction, bio-power and feminist cultural studies. She was instrumental in getting Iwanami Shoten to publish an abridged translation of my Derrida collection. She was so important as a channel of European and American feminist and critical theory in Japan and she also made us aware of the interesting work that was being done by feminist theorists and cultural studies scholars in Japan. What I remember most about Kazuko is her infectious smile and wonderful sense of humor.”
–Pheng Cheah, Professor, Department of Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley

“I hesitate to write about such an eminent feminist and literary scholar as Kazuko, when my own studies and experience are in such different areas (psychology and dramatic arts). But I would like to take this opportunity to express how blessed I feel to have known and worked with Kazuko. We met when I volunteered at a UC Berkeley YWCA program called “English In Action,” whose purpose was to pair foreign students and scholars with Americans interested in conversing with them. It had been found that this population tended to isolate while at UC Berkeley because of being nervous or embarrassed about their lack of proficiency in conversational English. So this program was developed nearly forty years ago to provide a “practice hour” for them once or twice a week. It was my great good fortune to be paired with Kazuko, and we became such fast friends that our one or two hours per week quickly expanded to include visits to musical events, dance and theatre performances, museums, movies, and restaurants.
At one point, Kazuko asked if I would mind checking her English on a paper she would soon be presenting. We became so engrossed with this task, working with each other easily and productively from the very beginning, that we began to work on several other projects Kazuko was involved with: articles and reviews for journals; translations of essays and book chapters she had originally written in Japanese and now wanted to submit to English publications; keynote addresses and panel introductions for a number of conferences; and many other projects along these lines. Kazuko was so enthusiastic about our work together, so open to suggestions, and so generous in expressing gratitude for my input, I began to think about going back to school to become an editor! But, of course, I realized that not all writers would be as delightful and engaging as Kazuko, so I contented myself with working as frequently as possible with her during the year she was here in Berkeley–and by telephone, email, and Skype after she returned to Japan.

We had planned for me to visit Japan during the Cherry Blossom Festival in the Spring of 2011–when Kazuko first became so mysteriously ill. In typical fashion, she continued to insist that I not change my plans, but as a little more time passed, I realized that her illness was much more serious than she was letting on, and regretfully cancelled the trip. But amazingly, we continued to work on a variety of projects for several more months.
As I have already expressed, I feel so privileged to have known and spent such wonderful times with Kazuko. I learned a great deal from her–about feminism and literature, about Japan and Japanese life, and, most of all, about living life to the full. She will always have a place in my heart, and her memory will always inspire to me. I am grateful.”
–Kristina Holland, Clinical Psychologist, Private Practice

Please also see the information on the Takemura Fund for Feminist Research for Gender Equality and Justice here.