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12/27/2005

民族日報事件と在日

Filed under: — kosho @ 9:15 am Print
先日12月17日、民族日報事件によって死刑に処せられたチョ・ヨンス氏の追悼に行ってきました。民族日報事件を簡単に説明しますと、この事件は韓国の5・16軍事クーデター直後の革新勢力に対する一斉検挙のなかで、民族日報社の幹部が軍事政権の「革命裁判部」により重刑に処せられた事件です。民族日報は1961年1月に創設され、進歩的な論調で人気を博していましたが、軍事政権によって「特殊犯罪処罰に関する特別法」を適用され、幹部三人が死刑判決を受け、そのうちチョ・ヨンス一人に死刑が執行されました。 この事件がなぜ在日に関係あるかと私が考えたかといえば、チョ・ヨンスは日本に長期間滞在しており、その際に私の知り合いと生活をともにしていたということがあります。そこで現在、日本の韓学同出身の人々が中心となり「民族日報連帯フォーラム」という組織が活動しております。私もそこに参加しているのですが、在日朝鮮人が韓国史の真相究明と民主化にどのように関わっているのか、それを具体的な活動を通して見ることができます。最近、在日朝鮮人史と朝鮮半島の歴史とのかかわりを掘り出す作業が以前よりも盛んになっていると思われますが、それもその一環として見ることができます。そして在日による主体的な現在進行形の活動としても非常に興味深いことだと思います。 現在、私自身、この事件と在日のかかわりについて整理ができていないため詳しいことはお伝えできませんが、このような歴史的な局面があり、それを知ることができた体験として重要だと考え、報告させていただきました。

12/15/2005

Hikokumin in Fukuoka

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 4:55 am Print
Asahi and Yomiuri newspapers both have reports on an October incident in a Fukuoka junior high school in which a teacher passed out copies of wartime "Red cards," which called men up for the military draft, to students. Students had to mark the paper to indicate whether they would go or not go. The teacher returned the card, and apparently left comments on those cards belonging to the nay-sayers to the effect that those students were 非国民 or that "Those who refuse on personal grounds are 非国民." The word, hikokumin, is sometimes translated as "unpatriotic individual" but in fact was a much stronger term which implied that the person was a traitor. The 広辞苑 dictionary defines it as, "Someone who has not performed their duties as a citizen. A person who does actions which betrays the nation." It is a bit unclear what the point of the exercise was. Asahi says simply that the school was aiming to teach something about human rights (学校によると、教諭は人権学習に熱心という), while Yomiuri reports the school as saying that they simply wanted to point out that people would be called that at the time and was not intended as an insult to the students. (教諭は、戦争に行かなかったら、『非国民』と呼ばれた当時の状況を説明して令状を配った。生徒の人格を否定するつもりはなかったようだ) In fact, I find this little history lesson to have some great potential, if handled carefully. We can't really tell much about the circumstances in the reports above. There seems to have been a lack of sensitivity on the part of the teacher by not supplementing the exercise with further explanation at the very least, or at worst, he may be seen as accusing his students of being traitors. However, stepping back for a moment, this kind of experiment might provide a great opportunity for a junior high school teacher to encourage students to think hard about some important issues. I remember my own 6th grade teacher did many of these kinds of experiments, and there were times we as students found them psychologically stressful, but I came away from that year having thought through a lot of important social issues related to race, justice, and democratic institutions. These are formative years and had a huge impact on my political consciousness, but I don't think such students are too young to begin facing these kinds of questions. The conduct of the teacher is very important, obviously. I dismiss any suggestion that a teacher or historian can somehow excise politics completely from their instruction. Beginning with the issues they choose to instruct about, and the questions they ask, they are already passed that point. However, instructors are obligated, I believe, to cultivate an environment in which contending positions may arise, fruitful debate and discussion result, and in which students may learn the strengths and weaknesses or the consequences of their eventual positions. In this case, I like very much the "shock" factor of these draft cards. Their receipt was often met with shock, horror, if not complete terror. For one example of this in recent film, I recommend the interesting comedy 笑いの大学. The entire comedy is essentially a long exchange between a comic play writer and a wartime censor. However, there is also a dramatic scene showing the dreaded red card. By giving the students a physical red photocopy of the card, and then asking them to choose to comply or not comply (which in wartime, of course, would have consequences well beyond that of being called a 非国民) could be a great starting point for discussions about civic duty, sacrifice for the nation, and as anyone knows my own feelings on this issue can guess: a discussion about the relationship between individuals and nations in general. If open discussion is promoted, the result may not be to the liking of Ministry of Education policy makers, especially if the nation is problematized. The ministry of education has clearly stated its desire to further inculcate feelings of patriotism (=nationalism, one being a euphemism for the other) among students. This is not limited to Japan, of course, as it is difficult to justify a place for this kind of open ended discussion within the goals of any public national education system. When national education systems provide a place for instructors and writings which clearly subvert national goals, they survive in spite of the founding goals of national education, and not because they are compatible with them. This is one reason that they are especially weak in response to the kind of critique launched against them by nationalist forces within Japan. This is perhaps one reason why the aging parliamentarian Ozaki Yukio, in the early aftermath of World War II believed that the first and most important step to moving beyond the nation-state as a political unit was the abandonment of a "national" educational policy, which he believed was the primary site in which a sense of national identity and loyalty is cultivated - an assumption shared by Japanese nationalists today. Like all the early postwar movements for a global government, Ozaki's efforts to promote world federalism failed. Since then many other problems with such ideals, beyond their alleged naivety, have been critiqued. However, the basic observation that any national education policy has a natural tendency to promote the cultivation of national identities and loyalties, I believe, remains sound, and is important for our and future generations to keep in mind.

12/8/2005

Because we must…

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 10:12 pm Print
If it isn't ninja, it's geisha. Yes, the weekend following the 64th anniversary of Pearl Harbor is the perfect time for "spectacularly unfortunate metaphors about male eels and female caves and one regrettably brief catfight in a kimono." I admit, I didn't read Memoirs of a Geisha when it came out, hit the bestseller lists, etc. I haven't read it yet, but I know I should. Not just to nitpick at the book and movie (which I won't see this weekend, though I might over break if opportunity presents), though that might indeed be fun, but because its popularity is something which we will have to take into account when we teach for the foreseeable future. Anyway, the New York Times review from which the above quote is taken has a pretty good synopsis of the film and background, and pretty much comes to the conclusion that it's a film that works visually much more than narratively. The job of a movie reviewer is twofold: explain what does and doesn't work about the movie so you know if you want to see it; be entertaining. For both, it's hard to beat Dargis' concluding paragraphs:
Mr. Marshall can't rescue the film from its embarrassing screenplay or its awkward Chinese-Japanese-Hollywood culture klatch, but "Memoirs of a Geisha" is one of those bad Hollywood films that by virtue of their production values nonetheless afford a few dividends, in this case, fabulous clothes and three eminently watchable female leads. Although it's always a pleasure to see these three in action, and there's something undeniably exciting about the prospect of them storming the big studio gate, the casting of Ms. Gong and Ms. Zhang ends up more bittersweet than triumphant. Ms. Zhang, for one, shows none of the heartache and steel of her astonishing performance in Wong Kar-wai's "2046." ... Ms. Gong's hauteur and soaring cheekbones work better for her character, a woman of acid resolve. Although there are moments when Hatsumomo comes perilously close to Dragon Lady caricature ("I will destroy you!"), the actress's talent and dignity keep the performance from sliding into full-blown camp. But even the formidable Ms. Gong cannot surmount the ruinous decision to have her and Ms. Zhang, along with the poorly used Mr. Yakusho, deliver their lines in vaguely British-sounding English that imparts an unnatural halting quality to much of their dialogue. The. Result. Is. That. Each. Word. Of. Dialogue. Sounds. As. If. It. Were. Punctuated. By. A. Full. Stop. Which. Robs. The. Language. Of. Its. Watery. Flow. And. Breath. Of. Real. Life. Even. As. It. Also. Gives. New. Meaning. To. The. Definition. Of. The. Period. Movie.
For slightly less breathless period pieces, Sour Duck has a review of a Taisho art exhibit (but missed the complementary Meiji works), which looks like fun, and runs almost until Christmas.

12/7/2005

Another Nail in the Ninja Coffin

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:45 pm Print
In response to a query on the H-Japan list, samurai historian par excellance Karl Friday wrote:
There are basically no publications in English on ninja worth reading--it's all junk. The only serious academic scholarship available outside Japanese language publications would be the material on Roy Ron's website at ninpo.org. Roy is a (fairly) recent PhD graduate from U Hawaii, and has spent a number of years doing research on ninja and related topics. The lack of reliable documents to work with makes ninja and ninjutsu a very difficult subject to research, and the ninja movie and novel phenomenon gives the whole topic a cartoonish aura that further dissuades academic historians from looking into it. Thus there isn't much out there to read, other than what's been written by modern teachers of "ninjutsu," none of whom have an credentials as historians. In English, you're simply out of luck; in Japanese there a few decent books and articles around, but for the most part information on ninja has to be culled in bits in snippets from studies on other topics. The most reliable reconstructions of "ninja" history suggest that "ninja" denotes a function, not a special kind of warrior--ninja WERE samurai (a term, which didn't designate a class until the Tokugawa period--AFTER the warfare of the late medieval period had ended--before that it designated only an occupation) performing "ninja" work. Movie-style ninja, BTW, have a much longer history than the movies (although the term "ninja" does not appear to have been popularized until the 20th century). Ninja shows, ninja houses (sort of like American "haunted houses" at carnivals), and ninja novels and stories were popular by the middle of the Tokugawa period. The "ninja" performers may have created the genre completely out of whole cloth, or they may have built on genuine lore derived from old spymasters. Either way, however, it's clear that much of the lore underlying both modern ninja movies and modern ninja schools has both a long history AND little basis in reality outside the theatre. [emphasis added; quoted with permission]
The site which Friday mentions above includes a history section which covers a lot of the same ground as Turnbull (though much more concisely) and some of the primary sources, most of which are either old gunki or 17th century martial manuals. This pretty much puts an end to the remaining questions I had after reading Turnbull's book. I used to tell students that the question of ninja was, from a historian's standpoint, still somewhat open. I think I'm going to take a much stronger line from now on, and point out that there are no historically credible claims supporting the historicity of a tradition which somehow concludes with modern schools of ninjustsu. So, we're back to the problem of created modern traditions in the martial arts and their discursive meanings. Update: Peter Shapinsky's comment about the users of violence and the relative flexibility of the term samurai are also interesting.

12/6/2005

Revision and Revisionism

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:42 pm Print
Deep in the middle of a roundtable about constitutional revision and neo-nationalism in Japan, comes a bit of discussion of historical revision and popular beliefs
John Junkerman: Returning to the Nanking issue, we were at a bookstore the other night, filming there. They have huge stacks of a new book by Higashinakano Shudo, who’s one of the key and very prolific Nanjing massacre deniers. His new book, which argues that a Guardian correspondent named Harold Timperley, who was responsible for many of the reports to the West of the massacre and wrote a book called What War Means, was on the payroll of the KMT and therefore he was writing propaganda. This is based on a fundamental historical error. Timperley was apparently hired by the KMT to write foreign press releases and such in 1939, but he wrote his book in 1938, before he was on the payroll. But that doesn’t really matter to Higashinakano. The point is that there were stacks of these books laid out flat at the end of the aisle with a big display, “the latest book by Higashinakano.” One of his other books has sold 80,000 copies. Another example of rising chauvinism is the recent Hate Korea manga that has sold 650,000 copies.

David McNeill: That to me is much more dangerous than academic books. I know that academic books have an influence, as well. We went on holiday last year, my wife and I, with her son who’s 21, and he’s a smart kid and his mother’s a progressive and his grandfather’s one of the most famous activists in Japan, so he has every reason to have a different take on the way things work in this country. But all of his attitudes and beliefs were pro-Koizumi. “Why should he not visit Yasukuni? The Nanking Massacre has been exaggerated, it was not a massacre. There were no comfort women.” All of it. Somehow he got all of these ideas, and he didn’t get them from school. Because, if you read the students’ essays, they say over and over again, “Well, actually, we don’t remember covering the war issues.” They spend so much time covering the long glorious history of Japan, for 2000 years that they often don’t have a lot of time to cover the war. So they get it from popular culture, they get it from manga, they get it from TV.

The core of the discussion is about Article 9 revision and the relationship between that, the Fundamental Education Law revision and the creation of a very restrictive constitutional amendment process (the outlines are in the Constitution itself, but concrete procedures have never been laid out in law). Junkerman sums it up pretty well here (emphasis added)

It depends in part on how the referendum law shapes up. The original versions of it were quite draconian, very restrictive/ But even the modified version, if it goes through, would prevent showing my film in Japan, for example. Public employees and teachers won’t be allowed to speak about the proposed revision, the media will be expected to observe self-restraint, all sorts of restrictions, which could create an environment in which people would be unable to discuss it in any substantial way. They will also be looking for the right, strategic moment. There is fundamental support for Article 9, but it’s very mushy and weak. If there were to be another incursion from a North Korean boat, or if there was a clash with Chinese forces over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, , that support would crumble overnight. Then they’ve got their referendum law, they take the revision to the Diet, you’ve got 60 or 90 days to hold the referendum, and the constitution gets revised in the heat of the moment.

I'm not sure how I feel about the Weimar comparison which comes shortly thereafter: I think there's some more elements of comparison which could be made, but it's too offhand to be a really serious historical analogy at this point. I don't know why they don't make the analogy to Japan of the 1920s instead: internationalist, democratic, cosmopolitan, but also Imperial, nationalistic, anti-Leftist, and politically adrift. Then you don't need to posit a Great Depression -- when the Japanese economy seems stronger than it's been in fifteen years -- to argue that things could easily go in the wrong direction (the Depression did contribute to the sense of crisis in Japan, but not to the mass mobilization the way it did in Germany).

The article ends with a statement of appeal from the "Article Nine Association," signed by Nobel Laureate Oe Kenzaburo, "New Left" novelist Oda Makoto, literary critic Kato Shuichi and philosopher Tsurumi Shunsuke, among other luminaries. It's an interesting ongoing discussion, but it's very important to separate out the tendentious past, partial present and speculative future in this argument....

Asian History Carnival 2

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:21 am Print
The 2nd installment of the Asian History Carnival is coming next week, December 12th. The announcement is out a bit late but send your nominations to konrad [at] lawson.net. I'll be hosting the carnival at my own Muninn.net See the full details on submission in the official announcement. If you missed the first carnival, take a look here. Also, pass on the word! Unlike the excellent bi-weekly History Carnival, our own bi-monthly carnival is just getting off the ground! I hope Frog in a Well readers will take a moment to make a nomination or two of good Asian history related postings by midnight December 11th EST. UPDATE: The new Asian history carnival is now up over at Muninn. The next carnival will be February 2nd, 2006. Please contact me at konrad [at] lawson.net if you are interested in hosting the third installment of the Asian History Carnival.

12/1/2005

Takeuchi Yoshimi on E. H. Norman

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 1:38 pm Print
It is a fairly rare thing to see Japanese public intellectuals pour praise on the work of historians of Japan who are active outside of Japan. It is heartening, however, to occasionally find examples of this and be reminded that our worlds of writing are not completely separate. Some examples from my recent reading that come to mind are when Kang Sangjun praises and makes use of my advisor, Andrew Gordon's conception of "Imperial Democracy" in his essay on "Radical Democracy" or a few articles I have read recently that build on ideas from Carol Gluck's many essays. Of course, Gordon and Gluck have many of their works translated into Japanese or write actively for Japanese publications. Even more rare, I think is when such a historian of Japan's work is referred to as a, "work of art." Today I found a particularly early example of this kind of attention in Takeuchi Yoshimi's 1948 essay "What is Modernity" (translated by Richard Calichman, who also has a forthcoming work on Takeuchi that I'm looking forward to entitled Takeuchi Yoshimi: Displacing the West) The context of the quote is a discussion by Takeuchi of Lu Xun's parable of the wise man, the fool, and the slave, and about what Takeuchi believes to be the unique connection between the claims to the "superiority" of Japanese culture and its "slave mentality." He finds echoes of this in the Marxist scholarship of E. H. Norman:
The following words are found in Norman's Soldier and Peasant in Japan. Of the books I've read recently, this one made a particularly deep impression, striking me as virtually a work of art. It hits home through the weight of its content. The text possesses a formative logic, with the wealth of its resources rising up like a Rodin sculpture. It is classically beautiful in its abundance of life force. Toward the end of the book, when the militarists become the tool of capital (which lagged behind European capital) and set off for the mainland invasion, the inevitable process of barbarization on the part of the modern army is captured in precise psychological realism: "The common Japanese man, himself an unfree agent enrolled in a conscript army, became an unwitting agent in riveting the shackles of slavery on other peoples." After this Normand adds, "It is impossible to employ genuinely free men for enslaving others; and conversely, the most brutalized and shameless slaves make the most pitiless and effective despoilers of the liberties of others." (80)

Murakami Rocks!

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 6:07 am Print
I didn't even know it was out, but Murakami Haruki's latest novel, in English translation, is on the New York Times' Top Ten Books of 2005 List. My holiday recreational reading is now officially spoken for.

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