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.
Date: 19 February 2019
Professor Araragi gave a wide-reaching and intricate talk about the subject of the large scale migrations that followed the dissolution of the Japanese empire in 1945. This was a unique opportunity for staff and students to learn more about this subject, especially since Professor Araragi has also published an article entitled “The Collapse of the Japanese Empire and the Great Migrations: Repatriation, Assimilation, and Remaining Behind,” in the collection The Dismantling of Japan’s Empire in East Asia: Deimperialization, Postwar Legitimation and Imperial Afterlife that was edited by Professor Kushner and Dr. Sherzod Muminov as part of the ERC project. Building on this background, the speaker introduced several new facets elaborating on the mass displacements that characterized the years following 1945. Millions of Japanese moved back from the colonies, and similar migrations took place among Koreans living in Japan and Northeast China. Drawing interesting parallels with the policies toward, for example, displaced Germans and other minorities in Europe after the war, Professor Araragi gave us a thorough overview of how the reconfiguration of national boundaries in East Asia was tied up with newly created Cold War power structures.
5 November 2018
In his talk Professor Huang Tzu-Chin introduced the multifaceted interactions between Chiang, the Japanese, and the CCP, before and after 1945. Introducing the audience to the rich background of Chiang’s formative years living in Japan and interacting with the Japanese, Professor Huang painted a vivid picture of just how deeply Chiang was influenced by his sojourn and study. Providing a nuanced interpretation of such pivotal events in the history of Japanese encroachment in China such as the Manchurian (or Mukden) Incident in 1931, Huang pointed out that Chiang’s well-known reluctance to confront the Japanese at this point was not unique and in fact shared by the autonomous governments in Northeastern China. At the same time, it was clear that from 1933 Chiang prioritized fighting the CCP over confronting the Japanese, and it was only the Xian Incident of 1936 that brought about the united front between the KMT and CCP. Naturally this was an alliance that was forced upon Chiang, and reading from his diary entry on the day of the Japanese surrender in China (9/9/1945), it is clear he found little joy in the occasion and was primarily concerned about the coming confrontation with the CCP. In terms of his attitudes toward the Japanese after 1945, Chiang was keen to influence the Americans in favor of maintaining the Japanese imperial system and not putting the emperor on trial. By finally bringing to the fore Chiang’s vision after 1945 for a strong and unified Japan that could serve as an ally in the coming international anti-communist struggle, the arc of Professor Huang’s lecture provided us with a fascinating outline of the pre- and postwar continuity in Chiang’s ideas about the Japanese and the CCP.
1 November 2018
On 1 November 2018 we held a research meeting where seven graduate students and one postdoc, all connected to the ERC project, presented their research. Several professors and postdocs also attended as guests and were able to offer their feedback and questions. While the topics of the presentations covered a wide variety of subjects, they were held together by the common thread concerning the question of how to approach the legacy of the Japanese empire in East Asia. Presentations covered, for example, the Japanese military legacy on Taiwan; the issue of maritime space in East Asia; Korean immigration in the age of empire and its postwar effects; and postwar Sino-Japanese relations. The discussions took account of large areas of the former Japanese empire. Approaching these disparate geographical areas from the perspective of their shared imperial legacies led to many animated discussions and excellent feedback from a variety of different angles. With eight people introducing their work in three hours, each participant was challenged to present his/her argument in as concise a manner as possible, and many of the questions raised led to further discussions during the dinner that followed the event. Having acquired a clearer idea of everyone’s project, the research meeting will likely prove to be a catalyst for continued debate between students and academics in the weeks and months to come, and help to raise the overall discussion and subsequent publications to a higher level.
Date: 23 October 2018
In his talk Mr. Miura Toshiaki shared his insights gained from several decades of work as a journalist since the 1980s. Concentrating on the history issue in Japan and how it has come to dominate the political debate in East Asia, Mr. Miura related how as a young journalist he had never imagined that writing about history would come to be a central part of his work as a journalist covering international politics. He identified 1994/5 as the watershed year, when progressive forces in Japan seemed to be in the ascendance, culminating in the Murayama statement of 1995 in which Prime Minister Murayama apologised to Japan’s war victims. Unexpectedly, this resulted in a major backlash from the Japanese right, which again contributed to the rise of both former Prime Minister Koizumi and current Prime Minister Abe. Mr. Miura further elaborated on how the Heisei emperor has become central to the debate on history that has come to dominate the era, and how with his progressive views he has come to personify the attachment many Japanese feel to the (pacifist) Article 9 of the constitution. He warned progressives against this sentiment however, since having the emperor as a political figurehead can backfire when a possible a future emperor holds opposite political beliefs. The lecture was followed by a spirited discussion on the topics Mr. Miura addressed, and the event proved a fruitful exchange of ideas gleaned from the perspective of journalism on the one hand, and the perspective of academia on the other.