In March of 2022, curators Genji Amino and Christina Hiromi Hobbs opened the show “No Monument” at the Noguchi Museum in New York, on the eightieth anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which consigned Japanese Americans to incarceration during World World II. The incarceration was not only a national, but a transnational carceral project, as Canada and several Latin American countries also orchestrated and participated in the incarceration. My talk begins with the art of this exhibition, which draws attention to the aesthetic afterlife and contemporary resonance of borders, securitization and incarceration and the struggle against them, showing how the political and the aesthetic are bound up with each other — entangled. Against the limits of monumentalization, either of historical trauma figured as the past in a racial liberal telos, or of the biographical subject, my talk focuses on the remarkable life of civil rights, queer and AIDS activist Kiyoshi Kuromiya. Kuromiya was born at Heart Mountain incarceration camp in 1943, in Wyoming, was radicalized and became a junior partner in the Black freedom struggle. As a college student at the University of Pennsylvania Kuromiya attended the Freedom Rides in 1962 in Maryland and was brutally beaten alongside SNCC student activists during the Selma to Montgomery march in Alabama. Martin Luther King Jr’s political philosophy and political theology left an indelible imprint on him and he continued to put his body on the line as a participant in the Civil Rights Movement, in solidarity with Black Power, Revolutionary Action Movement and the Panther Party, the homophile movement in the 1960s, the Philadelphia Gay Liberation Front in the 1970s, and AIDS activist movements from the 1980s to the end of his life.
I argue that abolition — from closets to cages — precedes and exceeds his individuated life and is the thread that sutures together his participation in these social movements, which are so often historicized as discrete. Hence the biography is as much about the multitude of social movements Kuromiya was a part of as it is about the singularity of his life and legacy.
Kuromiya spent years as a close collaborator and “adjuvant” of Buckminster Fuller, co-authoring Critical Path and editing his works. I examine how Kuromiya radicalized and democratized Fuller’s techno futurism, through the early use of the internet for HIV/AIDS activism — including incarcerated activism and how he simultaneously extends Fuller’s legacy as well by posthumously editing and publishing his books as his “adjuvant.” I discuss how HIV/AIDS lies at the nexus of anti-blackness, racial capitalism and the carceral state. I unpack how HIV is entangled with the “scramble for Africa” and how both the history and etiology of HIV/AIDS are mediated by colonialism. I situate Black queer and trans AIDS activism within the larger context of the Black radical tradition. I show how the Black AIDS activist struggle is part of a longer trajectory of insurgent resistance to the ongoing violence of premature death and how the story of ACT UP Philadelphia, which Kuromiya helped to create, dramatizes this political genealogy. Kuromiya’s story opens up questions about the politics of solidarity and I think through the import of his life and work for Asian American and Japanese American queer theory and studies, and AIDS cultural criticism.
Finally, I raise questions about the genre of biography itself and what possibilities might exist beyond the individuated self as the object of biography.