The Western and Questions of Indigeneity, Race and Violence in the American and Japanese Frontiers or, Two Unforgivens

Colloquium: Center for Japanese Studies | November 5 | 4-6 p.m. | 3335 Dwinelle Hall

 Andrew Barshay, Professor, UC Berkeley

 Takashi Fujitani, Professor, University of Toronto

 Center for Japanese Studies (CJS)

This presentation juxtaposes Clint Eastwood’s critically acclaimed Unforgiven (1992) against Lee Sang-il’s “remake” (Yurusarezaru mono, 2013) of the original as a method for recasting the histories of modern Japan and the U.S. as comparable and coeval settler colonial empires. The speaker will work through the insights and absences in these films to piece together a historical narrative that challenges the nationalist and historicist understandings of the Japanese and American pasts that are commonly found in popular culture and the writings of most historians. The presentation argues that Lee’s version, set in Hokkaidō, offers a more radical and challenging exploration of key themes in political thought taken up by Eastwood -- such as the violence of law, sovereign power, the right to kill, and historical memory and accountability – while foregrounding issues of indigeneity and settler colonialism. While Eastwood’s many Westerns are well known, Yurusarezaru mono is Lee’s only offering in this genre. Lee’s first film, Chong(1998, 2001), is in part based upon his own life growing up as an ethnic Korean in Japan. His more well-known films include Hula Girl (2006), The Villain (Akunin, 2010), and Rage (Ikari, 2016).


Takashi Fujitani holds the Dr. David Chu Chair in Asia Pacific Studies at the University of Toronto, where he is also Professor of History and Director of the Dr. David Chu Program in Asia-Pacific Studies. His major works include: Splendid Monarchy (UC Press, 1996; Japanese version, NHK Books, 1994; Korean translation, Yeesan Press, 2003); Race for Empire: Koreans as Japanese and Japanese as Americans During WWII (UC Press, 2011; Japanese and Korean versions forthcoming from Iwanami Shoten and Purun Yoksa); and Perilous Memories: The Asia Pacific War(s) (co-edited, Duke U. Press, 2001). He is also editor of the book series Asia Pacific Modern (UC Press). He has held numerous grants and fellowships, including from the John S. Guggenheim Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies, Stanford Humanities Center, Institute for Research in Humanities at Kyoto U, Humanities Research Institute at UC Irvine, and Social Science Research Council. During the spring quarter 2019, he will be the Paul I. Terasaki Chair in US-Japan Relations and Japanese Studies at UCLA. He is currently working on several books:Whose ‘Good War’? a Postnationalist History of WWII in the Asia-Pacific; Sovereign Remains: the Emperor and Questions of Sovereignty in Twentieth Century Japan; and Cold War Clint: Asians, “Indians” and Others in the Imaginary World of an American Icon.

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