Monthly Archives: September 2015

Contested Visions of Justice: Allied War Crimes Trials in a Global Context, 1943-1958

Dates: September 25-27, 2015

Jointly convened by Dr. Franziska Seraphim (Boston College), Dr. Kerstin von Lingen (Heidelberg), Dr. Wolfgang Form (ICWC Marburg) and Dr. Barak Kushner (Cambridge), this conference brought together historians, experts in international law and war crimes trials, as well as junior researchers at Boston College – Ireland.

Over the course of three days in Dublin, participants from Australia, Germany, Japan, Singapore, the United States and the United Kingdom discussed the history and legacy of international war crimes trials, the conflicting and converging visions of justice in the post-World War II world, and other topics. Divided into four panels, presenters and discussants explored the interconnections between various disciplines and approaches that analyse the post-war processes of administering justice within the global context.

Discussions and debates centred on the connections between post-WWII international military tribunals at Nuremberg (IMT) and Tokyo (IMTFE), the international legal mechanisms that these trials gave rise to and the precedents they set, and their lasting impact on the evolution of the global order after the war. The conference table at Boston College – Ireland became a meeting place for not only the contested visions of postwar justice, but also the disciplines of international law and history, and comparative approaches to national perceptions of war crimes and their adjudication.

As co-convenor of the conference, Dr. Barak Kushner made a presentation on the Chinese-Chinese competition in adjudicating the Japanese war crimes, and chaired a panel of papers that compared the competing notions of criminality across national borders. In his presentation, Dr. Kushner traced the evolution of Chinese legal system over the course of the twentieth century, competing visions of international justice between the Chinese Nationalists (KMT) and Communists (CCP), as well as the processes through which these two rivals used the adjudication of Japanese war crimes in establishing their own legitimacy within China.”

Conference Flyer

More information can be found on the University of Heidelberg’s conference page.


Presentations at British Association for Japanese Studies (BAJS) Annual Conference

Date: 10 September 2015

On September 10, Dr. Deokhyo Choi and Mr. Sherzod Muminov made presentations at the British Association for Japanese Studies (BAJS) Annual Conference held at SOAS, University of London. Dr. Choi and Mr. Muminov participated at the conference as part of the panel “Rethinking the ‘Postwar’ in Japan: Beyond U.S.-Japanese Encounters,” originally proposed and organised by Dr. Choi. Dr Griseldis Kirsch, Lecturer in Contemporary Japanese Culture at SOAS, also presented as part of the panel, and Dr. Aaron William Moore, Lecturer in East Asian History at the University of Manchester, acted as the panel chair. More information follows the photo gallery.

“Rethinking the ‘Postwar’ in Japan” was organised with an aim to provide new approaches to the formation of a postwar Japan, which has been viewed by historians as primarily the product of U.S.-Japanese collaboration, collusion, or “embracing.” In order to decenter the dominant paradigm of this U.S.-Japan relational binary, panel presenters examined how Japan’s encounters with China, Korea, and the Soviet Union after World War II shaped Japanese national identity and collective memories of empire, war, and defeat.

In his presentation, Dr. Choi shed new light on the postwar reimagining of Japan as a pacifist “mono-ethnic nation” out of the militaristic “multi-ethnic empire”. He analysed the topic by exploring how the Korean minority question emerged as a central locus for defining and re-imagining Japanese national boundaries after the collapse of the “multi-ethnic” empire on the ground and in the popular social imaginary. In its postwar political discourse,the Japanese government framed the Korean minority as a “problem” by associating their presence with post-defeat social disorders, such as food scarcity, skyrocketing inflation, and the rampant blackmarket economy. By analysing numerous private letters sent by Japanese people to General Douglas MacArthur, I discuss how this political discourse turned former Korean imperial “brethren” into the “enemy within” in the Japanese social imaginary.

Mr. Muminov’s presentation represented an attempt to bring the Soviet Union back into East Asian history following the collapse of Japan’s wartime empire. He traced the Soviet Union’s overlooked influence on Japan’s turbulent postwar decade by looking at two interrelated channels: the relationship of the Japan Communist Party (JCP) with the USSR, and the repatriation from the Soviet camps of over half-million Japanese internees captured by the Soviets in August 1945, following their successful ‘Manchurian Offensive Operation’. Mr. Muminov argued that the USSR exerted indirect influence on Japan’s domestic sphere by using the JCP and the returnees from Siberia as tools of its foreign policy. Stalin’s success in forcing the JCP to adopt a militant line in Occupation-era Japan, as well as his attempts to influence Japan’s internal affairs through the former internees provoked the US Occupation Administration to harden its stance towards the JCP and other leftist organisations, and dragged Japan further into the net of Cold War confrontation.

Dr. Griseldis Kirsch moved the audience to a more recent historical era in her presentation: Japan’s so-called ‘lost decades’. She also argued that Japan’s post-war had mostly been looked at with regards to its relation with the US. However, China played an important part in Japan’s imaginary, as former colony in the shape of Taiwan and target of colonial expansion in the mainland China. While until 1972, Japan and the People’s Republic of China did not have official diplomatic relations, then Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei’s visit to Beijing marked a sea change, according to Dr. Kirsch, and China became prominent on the mind map of the Japanese. Drawing on media representations of the 1990s to early 2000s, Dr. Kirsch demonstrated how China had come to be Japan’s favourite Other during the ‘lost decade’ and what kind of perceptions were passed on to audiences in Japan with regards to its position within East Asia, thus complementing the US in discourses on self-assertion, nationalism and Japaneseness.