Introduction: The “Comfort Women” as Public History

Quelle: The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 19 | Issue 5 | Number 3 | Article ID 5555 | Mar 01, 2021
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Japan Focus

The “Comfort Women” as Public History - Scholarship, Advocacy and the Commemorative Impulse

Mark R. Frost, Edward Vickers

In this introductory essay to the special issue of The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus on “The Comfort Women as Public History,” we analyze the turn since the early 2000s towards “heritagization” of this controversial issue. After reviewing the political, cultural and historiographical background to ongoing disputes over “comfort women,” we examine how the reframing of this issue as “heritage” has been accompanied by increasing entanglement with the global politics of atrocity commemoration, and associated tropes. Prominent among such tropes is the claim that commemoration fosters “peace”. However, following recent critical scholarship on this issue, and drawing on the papers that comprise this special issue, we question any necessary equation between heritagization and reconciliation. When done badly, the drive to commemorate a contentious issue as public history can exacerbate rather than resolve division and hatred. We therefore emphasise the need for representation of comfort women as public history to pay due regard to nuance and complexity, for example regarding the depiction of victims versus perpetrators; the transnational dimension of the system; and its relationship with the broader history of gender politics and the sexual subjugation of women. ....

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