Date: 23 February 2019
This final gathering, organized under the banner of the ERC project, came one week before its closure. The moment provided an excellent opportunity to gather together 15 academics who have been involved with the project over the last six years, and through five presentations we were offered an overview of the group’s many activities and achievements. First, Dr. Sherzod Muminov (University of East Anglia) introduced his current research, which involves a large amount of collaboration with academics in both the East and West. Perhaps, most importantly, he is working on the final revisions for his monograph, entitled: Eleven Winters of Discontent: The Siberian Internment and the Making of the New Japan, 1945-1956, which is forthcoming from Harvard University Press in 2020. Second, Dr. Andrew Levidis (University of Central Lancashire) gave us an insight into his vision for how the history of de-imperialization in East Asia should be approached, and especially how his research is informed by a need to view the post-World War II Japanese conservative hegemony and the vehicle of that hegemony – the Liberal Democratic Party – as an essentially post-imperial political order. Third, Dr. Casper Wits (University of Cambridge) introduced his on-going book project, which deals with the role of Chinese and Japanese journalists within the broader context of Sino-Japanese relations in the decades after 1945. Due to the central role of journalists in influencing bilateral views and opinions during the Cold War, his investigation serves as an important angle from which to understand why the success of rapprochement came with the failure of reconciliation, and therefore why the legacy of empire still haunts the region today. Fourth, Ria Roy (University of Cambridge) gave us a thorough overview of the Park Yu-ha translation project and its importance. While the project was a group effort of the entire research team, Ria has been central to it on the Korean testimony translation angle and hopefully we will soon see the publication of this important work about the Korean comfort women and the debate surrounding this issue in South Korea. Last, Professor Barak Kushner (University of Cambridge) rounded up the discussion by going over the many achievements of the 6-year ERC project. Over the life of the grant he was able to host 6 postdocs; 3 graduate students (formally); and more than 9 visiting scholars. He and his research team produced 5 monographs; 18 journal articles; 13 book reviews; 5 edited books; and 21 chapters in edited volumes. Central to the effort of bringing together like-minded scholars from East and West during these years has been the organization of 12 international conferences, as well as 51 workshops, and around 75 talks delivered by Professor Kushner all over the world. The grant has enabled the creation of a space at the University of Cambridge for debating the legacies of the Japanese empire in East Asia and the adjudication of war crimes in the postwar era, a debate that is pivotal for understanding the volatile state of international relations in the region today. All those who were able to participate in this gathering, as well as other activities of the project in the last six years, will hopefully continue to pursue the multifaceted historical questions raised, thereby making the project a base for continuing inquiry into the postwar reverberations of the Japanese empire in East Asia.