Postwar Contestations of History in Northeast Asia

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Postwar Contestations of History in Northeast Asia
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Patrick Vierthaler, Kyoto University, Japan (organizer, presenter)
Andrew Logie, University of Helsinki, Finland (presenter, chair)
Xueni Gu, Kyoto University, Japan (presenter)
Chihiro Narita, Doshisha University, Japan (presenter)


Since the 1990s, the societies of Northeast Asia have witnessed an intensification of disputes over historical writing and memory that are invariably connected to the complex legacies of Japanese empire. Issues including forced sexual labor, atrocity denialism, and Yasukuni Shrine have all captured popular and scholarly attention. A period formative to these and other debates yet often overlooked are the postwar decades of the Cold War era. Highlighting less-treated topics, this panel argues that contestations of history in Northeast Asia must be examined in their domestically specific yet transnationally connected contexts of knowledge production.
Disrupting the “progressive-conservative” dichotomy common to historiography and nationalism, Gu analyzes why and how Japanese philosopher Ueyama Shunpei from the late 1950s moved to challenge Marxist interpretations of Japanese history and war responsibility. Focusing on similarly "converted", former democratization activists in South Korea, Vierthaler examines conservative historical consciousness in the post-democratization era and its limitations concerning Korean nationalism. Narita, meanwhile, tracks how the ambiguous historical position of Okinawa was contested in the negotiations concerning the island’s return to Japan during the 1960-1970s. Turning to South Korean imaginings of ancient empire, Logie highlights the role of amateur historians of the same Park Chung Hee era whose ideologies were formed within the Japanese empire.
By looking beyond the regional "dispute epicenter" of rightwing Japanese revisionism, this panel aims to shed new light across a greater spectrum of postwar historical contentions in Northeast Asia, in particular Japan and South Korea, which have hitherto been largely neglected in Western scholarship.