Resistance beyond sovereign politics: Petty sovereigns’ disappearance into the world of fiction in post-Fukushima Japan

Reiko Shindo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


What happens to sovereign power when petty sovereigns refuse to exploit discretionary power to suspend the rule of law, the very power that is delegated to them and makes them who they are? How might such a refusal contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between resistance and sovereign power? This article revisits Judith Butler’s notion of petty sovereigns to explore the possibility that petty sovereigns establish a distinctive relationship with law. This article draws on a case involving one nameless petty sovereign and his published writings. He writes novels to expose how law is used by some officials to realize a particular policy goal with regards to nuclear energy. His novels blur the line between fiction and non-fiction: it contains classified information only available to bureaucrats, discusses actual energy policies and related laws, and introduces fictional characters who resemble non-fictional characters. I argue that this example suggests that petty sovereigns are not necessarily tied to the node between governmentality and sovereignty. Shifting between the worlds of fiction and non-fiction, petty sovereigns slip away from sovereign power, which controls the subject-making process, and quietly resist sovereign politics through the contingency of subjectivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-199
Number of pages17
JournalSecurity Dialogue
Issue number3
Early online date24 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018



  • Exception
  • Fiction
  • Governmentality
  • Nuclear energy
  • Resistance
  • Sovereignty

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