Cold War Ruins: Transpacific Critique of American Justice and Japanese War Crimes

Colloquium | November 6 | 4-6 p.m. | 3335 Dwinelle Hall

 Lisa Yoneyama, University of Toronto

 Center for Japanese Studies (CJS)

The U.S.-led post-conflict transitional justice in the Asia-Pacific War’s aftermath has not only rendered certain violences illegible and unredressable. It also left many colonial legacies intact. In Cold War Ruins: Transpacific Critique of American Justice and Japanese War Crimes I argued that, much more than products of the East Asian state policies capitalizing on the anti-Japanese sentiments or the ethnonational politics of recognition in North America, the transnational efforts especially intensifying since the1990s to bring justice to the victims of Japanese imperial violence must be seen as a trace of failed justice—in particular, the failure of decolonization—under the Cold War. This presentation considers the Japanese conservative revisionism in the transpacific “Comfort Women” redress culture. Once critiqued conjunctively across the categories and geographies separated by disciplinary divides, Japan’s revisionism and the post-1990s redress culture of which it is a part can reveal the disavowed history of violence and entanglement, while pointing to the limits of pursuing justice within the bounds of Cold War formations and their structuring legacies.

Lisa Yoneyama received Ph.D. in Anthropology at Stanford University (1993) and taught Cultural Studies at Literature Department, University of California, San Diego (1992-2011), where she also directed programs for the Japanese Studies and Critical Gender Studies. She joined the University of Toronto faculty in 2011 to teach East Asian Studies and Women & Gender Studies. Yoneyama published four books: Hiroshima Traces: Time, Space and the Dialectics of Memory (University of California, 1999); a co-edited volume, Perilous Memories: Asia-Pacific War(s) (Duke University Press, 2001); Violence, War, Redress: Politics of Multiculturalism (published in Japanese, Iwanami Shoten, 2003); and most recently, Cold War Ruins: Transpacific Critique of American Justice and Japanese War Crimes (Duke University Press, 2016) which received the 2018 Best Book Award in Humanities and Cultural Studies presented by the Association for Asian American Studies. Her research has been supported by many fellowships and grants, including SSRC-McArthur Foundation Fellowship in International Peace and Security, University of California Humanities Research Institute Resident Fellowship, etc. She is currently working on a paper that revisits some of the questions she has raised in Hiroshima Traces to newly explore what she calls the “post-Fukushima epistemologies” and consider the multivalent and uneven political implications of the emergent language, knowledge, and cultural practice that seek to connect various past and ongoing nuclear injuries and their disavowals.

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