AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 253

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Session 253: “The Continuation of War by Other Means:” Escaping and Embracing War in East Asia

Organizer: Sabine Fruhstuck, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Discussant: Sheldon M. Garon, Princeton University, USA

War does not only leave its mark on the social body because it takes the form of an invasion; rather, through military institutions, popular culture, pedagogy, technology and other intermediaries, war has general effects on the civil order as a whole. This panel takes Foucault’s inversion of Clausewitz’s dictum to East Asia and as a point of departure to think through the relationships between war, power, discourse and subjectivity. In his lectures, Foucault argued that politics is “the continuation of war by other means.” In these four papers we collectively stretch this assertion to address our understanding that war begins before the battle and continues long after it is over. Each paper analyzes war as an institution that penetrates every corner of society, not the raw event of a battle. Cwiertka examines how American and Japanese soldiers in the Pacific War attempted to, at least temporarily, escape the powerful draw of war and how a number of beverage enterprises successfully exploited that desire. Frühstück investigates the rules and regularities of war play from the hills and along the rivers of nineteenth-century rural Japan to the killing fields of twenty-first century cyberspace in order to question the naturalized connections between infantilism and militarism. Naftali sheds light on the resurrection of child soldiers in films of post-Tiananmen China to speak about the massive militarization of modern Chinese childhood. And, Robertson describes roboticists’ visions of future wars through the lens of their intimate and mostly clandestine relations with the arms industry.

Escaping the Stress of Combat: Sake, Beer and Whisky in the Pacific War
Katarzyna Cwiertka, Leiden University, Netherlands

Alcohol was a silent companion of every soldier in World War II. In all theatres, drinking constituted an important channel for releasing tensions of battle and constrains of military life; it was a remedy against fear and boredom, served as a morale booster, and facilitated conviviality among “brothers in arms.” This paper explores the place of alcohol in the Pacific War, focusing on the American and Japanese troops. Beer was number one alcoholic beverage consumed around the Pacific, followed by sake, various types of hard liquor, and self-brew made from canned fruit or coconut milk. Reports of Aqua Velva aftershave mixed with grapefruit juice being popular among GI’s on Guadalcanal indicate that alcoholic insulation against reality was chronic among the American forces. One the other hand, ritual use of sake, along with extensive consumption of beer and whisky, demonstrate the important role alcohol assumed in the Japanese forces as well. While the war did not prove the economic bonanza for beer that it was for companies such as Coca Cola, Hershey and Wrigley, it helped to transform its image from a morally suspect commodity to a symbol of the American way of life. Japanese beer producers smoothly transferred their target market from the Japanese military to the occupying forces, and from 1950 to the US and UN battalions fighting in Korea. The war also marked a watershed for small Japanese whisky businesses, which saw their profits grow after 1941, when supplies of imported whisky were not longer available.

On Playing War
Sabine Fruhstuck, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

In 1855, a group of children gathered and split into two sides, one American and the other Japanese, to play war. Each side had a leader. A twelve-year-old led the Japanese. A fourteen-year-old led the American side. The Japanese leader thrust a bamboo rod into the boy who was playing the leader of the Americans. The boy immediately fell to the ground in pain. The wound proved fatal. The angry parents took the matter to court. The court ruled in favor of the young boy who had killed the American leader. The court believed that he had done the right thing; that he had defended his country by defeating the enemy - America. As a reward he was given a lifetime stipend and his followers were commended for their behavior. By the 1870s, attitudes toward such war games had significantly changed when a series of print media reports alerted their readership to the fact that they frequently ended in serious injuries or even death of the young players. Aggressively promoted in the 1930s and 1940s, such war games are generally frowned upon in Japanese society today while, at the same time, produced with finesse and creativity for electronic gaming platforms. In this paper, I examine varying configurations of infantilism and militarism by tracing the rules and regularities of war games from the nineteenth into the twenty-first century, and from the fields of rural Japan to cyberspace, where we find war games and the practices of playing war dramatically reconfigured.

The Return of the Little Red Soldier: Childhood, War, and the Military in China’s Contemporary Popular Culture
Orna Naftali, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel

In this paper, I explore current representations of childhood, war, and the military in Chinese popular culture products aimed at children and youth. Drawing on an analysis of animation films, television dramas, video games, and toys produced in China in the past decade or so, I argue that children’s popular culture in China is currently undergoing increased militarization, defined here as “a discursive process involving a shift in general societal beliefs” in ways necessary to legitimate the use of force and the organization of large standing armies. How do contemporary representations of combative children, and in particular combative boys, compare with Maoist-era celebratory narratives of “little red soldiers”? What is the relationship between current images of children at war; the Chinese government’s on-going Patriotic Education campaign; and the rise of a more assertive strain of nationalism in post-Tiananmen China? Finally, how do individual artists, the entertainment industry, and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) collaborate in the creation and circulation of children’s war-themed products? In addressing these and other issues, I posit that while we may be witnessing a new wave in the militarization of modern Chinese childhood, this process is nonetheless riddled with paradoxes and difficulties. These stem not only from the present popularity of competing foreign media products, but also from the growing influence of a liberal strain of discourse, which seeks to redefine Chinese childhood as a “happy, carefree time,” sheltered from the realities of adult conflict and war.

Posthuman Warfare in Japan: Weaponizing Robots
Jennifer Robertson, University of Michigan, USA

Japanese roboticists regularly use the sites of humanoid robot-based services and entertainment—from exhibitions halls to the home—as giant laboratories and proving grounds for robot research and development. Contrast this with the situation in the United States, where it is mainly the military, particularly the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), that invests in robotic technology without didactic input from the consumer public. But, this is not to say that the Japanese do not also seek military uses of robotic technology. Data from entertainment and household robot experiments and expos are clearly being used by Japan’s new Ministry of Defense (until 2007, the Defense Agency), whose annual White Papers for the past decade have included a section on robotics and robot warfare on earth and in outer space. Nevertheless, military applications of robots is not (yet) common knowledge in Japan, a situation that I seek to redress in this presentation. Front-line Japanese trading companies such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries contain embedded defense companies. Because the postwar constitution still limits the purchase of foreign military equipment to the United States alone, most of these large Japanese companies also manufacture arms strictly for use by the Japan Self-Defense Forces. And, despite a universally observed self-imposed ban on (but not law against) exporting weapons since 1976, end users have long adapted Japanese civilian technology exports (such as cameras and trucks) for military purposes. Arms production, a lucrative business, can also serve as a cushion against recession, and Japan is rejoining the global arms industry using its increasingly weaponized robotics technology as a wedge.