The Abuse of History

Quelle: The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 19 | Issue 5 | Number 15 | Article ID 5550 | Mar 01, 2021
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Japan Focus

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The Abuse of History:
A Brief Response to J. Mark Ramseyer’s 

Alexis Dudden

For those who read Professor Ramseyer’s article at face value, unseen are assertions that advocate a current Japanese political ideology. This worldview is racially essentialist, revanchist, and history-denying, resonant with similar movements around the world such as Trumpism, LePenism, Modi-ism, and so on.1 In Japan, among other things the impulse seeks to challenge universalisms that have grounded Japan’s post-World War II legal, economic, and social order.2 Were it to succeed, for example, its adherents’ proposal for revising Japan’s standing constitution would replace the current preamble, “We, the Japanese people,” for an entirely different one: “Japan is a nation with a long history and unique culture.”3

In the case of Ramseyer’s article, the ruse becomes apparent first with his deployment of the term “contract,” a legal, economic, and social agreement that in this article’s usage presupposes equal bodies freely negotiating. Even if there were physical evidence of these “contracts,” it would be alarming to ascribe it to occurrences of sexual exploitation and extreme violence at any time or any place. It is nothing less than shameful, however, to deploy this term to a history that the United Nations and Amnesty International have determined a “crime against humanity.”4 Moreover, its meaning is moot during the era of Imperial Japan (1868-1945) because there were no “citizens” freely acting as such. All individuals—Japanese nationals and colonials alike—were “subjects” of the emperor, whose “conditions necessary for being a Japanese subject (were) determined by law,” which the Japanese emperor “sanction(ed) and order(ed).”5 Economic, gender, and racial factors informed these “conditions” and generated clear hierarchies of personhood. Simply put, all men were not created equal—let alone women in general, let alone women and minors from Japan’s colonially occupied territories. ...

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