The Prism of Youth: Life Writing by Japanese Children and Teenagers during WWII
Colloquium | March 7 | 4-6 p.m. | 3335 Dwinelle Hall
Aaron William Moore, Senior Lecturer, The University of Manchester
Andrew Barshay, Professor, History, UC Berkeley
Even when compared with the West, Japanese children and teenagers arguably left the most extensive historical record of young people's personal experiences of total war from 1937 to 1945. In particular, evacuation, rationing, family life, compulsory labor, and conscription reach a level of detail rarely seen in adult accounts. Nevertheless, in the historiography of childhood and youth, the importance of "age as a category of analysis" can be in conflict with the notion that "children" and "teenagers" are culturally constructed categories which change throughout history. This talk will feature close readings of hand-written manuscripts, published, and self-published personal documents, including diaries and letters, to discuss how the war was described when we strictly limit our perspective to materials composed by young people aged 8 to 16. In doing so, we will see how important social expectations for young people were for framing their descriptions of the war years, but also how adult efforts to discipline youth were ultimately unsuccessful in controlling the process of learning about language, society, and the larger world.
Aaron William Moore is a Senior Lecturer in East Asian History at the University of Manchester. He is the author of Writing War (HUP, 2013), a major comparative study of Japanese, Chinese, and American soldiers' diaries describing combat experience and subjectivity in WWII. His second book, Bombing the City, is a narrative history of civilian accounts of the air war on British and Japanese cities, forthcoming from Cambridge University Press in 2017. He has published articles on children's descriptions of war in China and Japan, and is currently preparing a book on Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and British youth accounts of WWII. In 2014 he was awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize for his work in comparative history.