Monthly Archives: November 2016

Brothers at War: Professor Sheila Miyoshi Jager on the Continuous Conflict between the Two Koreas

Date: 24 November 2016

The standoff between North Korea and South Korea has continued for more than six decades, dividing the peninsula into two nations with opposing ideologies. According to Sheila Miyoshi Jager, Professor of East Asian Studies at Oberlin College in Ohio, this continuing confrontation, long studied as part of the Cold War, should be investigated and interpreted as a historical phenomenon in its own right, one that continues to influence the international relations in East Asia long after the Cold War ended.

Professor Jager based her talk on her recent book, Brothers at War: The Unending Conflict in Korea (W.W. Norton/Profile Books). She outlined the main historical approaches to the Korean War (1950-1953). She then pointed out to the main deficiency of these perspectives: they all focus on the three years of “proxy war” but fail to make sense of the six decades of ceaseless confrontation since the guns stopped firing.

The stimulating presentation by Professor Jager was followed by a spirited discussion between the speaker and the audience that included the Project team, as well as guests from the faculty and the members of the public.


Traces of Empire on Islands of Memory: Guest Talk by Professor Philip Seaton

Date: 18 November 2016

In this guest talk, Professor Philip Seaton of Hokkaido University combined his latest research on Japanese war memory with observations on a trip around five islands in the Seto Inland Sea in Japan. He introduced, then challenged the concept of “dark tourism” that serves as an umbrella term to cover a diverse range of tourist activities to places associated with war, trauma and suffering.

Professor Seaton demonstrated, based on his research trip to five islands in the Seto Inland Sea, that the memories of war and empire associated with these islands inspired more than simply dark emotions in the tourists that travel to these islands each year. He specifically mentioned the ways in which some of the tangible remnants of war and empire have been given new lease of life in popular culture: by groups of anime fans who connected them with their favourite works of art, or by schoolchildren on excursions to museums that document the problematic past of the islands in question. These and other ideas presented by the guest speaker inspired a lively discussion with the audience.


The Reconstruction of East Asia, 1945-65

Date: 9-12 December 2016

Location: Cambridge University, UK

This international conference aimed to generate new dialogues on the history of the collapse of the Japanese empire. It did so by gathering in Cambridge a diverse group of scholars who work on a wide variety of historical and geographical perspectives, focusing on China, Japan, Korea (South and North), and Taiwan, and researching aspects of military demobilization, law and responsibility, the reorganization of authority and new political ideologies, transformations in postwar socieites, cultures, and many related topics.

The underlying theme of the discussions was the way in which the collapse of the Japanese empire affected the region, and how a host of different and often competing groups struggled to remap and revision East Asia in the aftermath of the end of empire.

Over three days, twenty-five scholars from Asia, Europe and North America divided into eight panels were joined by the Project team and Cambridge-based historians and graduate students to engage in fruitful discussions. These were alternated by informal conversations and exchanges aimed at fostering scholarly collaboration and networking. As a result of the conference, the best presentations will be selected for publication in two edited volumes, leading to valuable contributions to existing literature on the post-imperial reconstruction of East Asia.

Conference Agenda

Participant Biographies

Conference Materials (password protected)


Japan’s Modern History through International Exhibitions: A Guest Seminar with Dr. Ito Mamiko

Date: 8 November 2016

In this seminar Dr. Ito Mamiko, Associate Professor at Gakushuin University in Tokyo, presented her recent research into the history of the Japanese imperial expansion through the unique lens of national and international exhibitions. Surveying a century and a half of modern Japanese history from the Meiji Restoration of 1868 to the present day, Dr. Ito offered stimulating interpretations of the development of Japanese ideas of modernity, development and empire as seen in the various exhibition pavilions both in Japan and abroad.

Focusing especially on World Expositions (‘Expos’) held in the long period from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first, Dr. Ito underlined the international political, economic and propaganda implications of these international events. She connected the decisions to participate in these exhibitions to the domestic economic and political realities, drawing attention to the willingness of the Japanese leadership to advance the image of ‘modern Japan’ on the world stage by investing, even at times of economic hardship, in participation in – and organisation of – international exhibitions. The guest lecture, which was held in Japanese, served as a unique opportunity for the Project team and the Faculty members to engage in a fruitful and stimulating discussion.