AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 558

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Session 558: Toward the “Lieux de Mémoire” of East Asia

Organizer: Ryuta Itagaki, Doshisha University, Japan

Chair: Deborah Solomon, Otterbein University, USA

“Lieux de mémoire,” which can be translated as “places of memory,” is the name of a project which was undertaken by a French historian, Pierre Nora, in the 1980s and the 1990s. Starting from a criticism of the quasi-nationalist framework of “lieux de mémoire,” this panel proposes an alternative version of “lieux de mémoire” that is appropriate to the case of East Asia. Nora’s project was originally aimed at demonstrating how the collective memory of France had been historically constructed. By uncritically selecting “topics” about which the majority of French citizens had shared knowledge and feelings, however, Nora’s project eventually ended up neglecting colonial factors and erasing them from French collective memory. As a result, ironically, the project itself became another monument of French national memory. In contrast, the proposed project of “lieux de mémoire” of East Asia starts from a transnational framework, in which the model of shared memory does not apply. Rather, it historicizes the constellation of memory, including uneven distributions of the remembered and the unknown or forgotten, produced by asymmetric power relations. This panel consists of four presentations, beginning with introductory remarks by the first presenter which outline the theoretical framework of East Asian “lieux de mémoire.” Subsequent presenters, both Korean and Japanese scholars, will then present three case studies. Not only are the presenters’ nationalities diverse, but their fields vary as well and include history, literature, philosophy, and anthropology, highlighting the transnationality and interdisciplinarity of this project.

The Uncomfortable Memories of Shim Cheong, the “Sold Daughter”
Ji Young Jung, Ewha Womans University, South Korea

This paper discusses the uncomfortable memories of “sold daughters” during colonization and modernization by analyzing Shim Cheong Jeon, the tale of a filial daughter that was popularly circulated in twentieth-century Korean society. Although Shim Cheong is described as a symbol of filial piety in textbooks and children’s storybooks, she is in fact a girl who sold herself for her father. The memories of daughters who had to sell themselves as “comfort women,” yang kongju or “foreigners’ escorts,” and prostitutes overlap in Shim Cheong Jeon. The tale is a lieu de memoire in which the denial, elusion, justification, apology, and distress for the circumstances which cause Korean daughters to be sold are discussed. By examining the ways in which certain oppressed memories are remembered and talked about indirectly within a corner of the official realm of memory, this paper offers a feminist critique of Korea and Japan’s nationalist rememberings of “sold daughters” and “comfort women.”

Memory and the Politics of Fingerprinting: Colonialism; the Cold War; and Globalization
Ryuta Itagaki, Doshisha University, Japan

This paper discusses the relationship between politics and historical memory as it occurs through fingerprinting in East Asia. Contemporary forms of fingerprinting always pretend to be something “new,” erasing the memory of historical experiences. Yet fingerprinting can remind people of the historical experiences of colonialism, World War Two, or the Cold War. Such memories sometimes serve as mediators of common experiences that have been separated from one another. Just as historically-based reminiscences can give rise to new social ties, solidarity movements demand from us the excavation of transnational histories. I will discuss such an interaction between memory and action, focusing on the experiences of fingerprinting in Japan and Korea. The movement against fingerprinting in 1980s Japan was led by Koreans, joined by other foreign nationals, and supported by Japanese citizens. This type of transnational spread of the movement made it possible to describe a set of histories that had heretofore never been reflected upon in a positive manner. In this presentation, I will focus on three vectors of reminiscence: the fingerprinting system in Manchuria; the U.S. presence in Asia after WWII; and the unspoken experiences of 1950s popular movements. In South Korea, the fingerprinting system was adopted under an ideology of anti-communism in the 1960s. The process of democratization and the post-Cold War environment made it possible to talk about the transnational origins of this system, which was connected to experiences in Japan as mediated by Manchuria, to the U.S., and to the changing flow of immigration in East Asia.

Egocentric and De-centric Functions in the Realm of Memory
Minoru Iwasaki, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Japan

Our panel presents a new portrait of East Asia using the perspective of collective memories. The project is not the sum of established national histories, but instead seeks to create a new historiography which can demolish them and let the imagined space of East Asia become silhouetted through the correlative and reflective writing of selected “Lieux.” I will present a theoretical framework which considers the relationship between the functions of collective memory. Subsequent panel presenters will then utilize this to present concrete examples of collective memories. “Lieux de mémoire” are themselves productive recollections based on an actual dialog between the past and present. These must be part of the creative process whereby a new constellation of East Asia is constructed. While reimagining East Asia, we find that collective memories serve two different functions. One function can be defined as “recollection for self confirmation,” which seeks an entirely comfortable reminiscence of the past in order to gain assurance. However, in our panel, we focus on the counterpart to such an egocentric function, which can overcome even pure and simple self-identification. We understand this second function to be the “recollection of de-centrification.” The ethnocentric aspect emerges as nationalistic historical revisionism if only the first function is intensified. However, within the dynamics of collective memories, there is also a critical turning point where a “de-centric” orientation can appear and “dissimilate” the former. Almost all conflicts related to national history can be explained as an antagonism between these two orientations, as we will demonstrate.

The Arena of Remembering and Forgetting: The Memories of the Poet Yoon Dong-Ju in Seoul, Kyoto, and Long Jing
Shin Jung Kim, University of Incheon, South Korea

This paper explores the meanings of the Korean poet Yoon Dong-Ju as an arena of memory construction in East Asia. Yoon is remembered differently in three East Asian countries. He is a national poet in Korea, an icon of peace and reconciliation in Japan, and a medium through which the collective memory of those of Korean descent is recollected in China. When those in Korea and China remember Yoon, suffering and resistance during the colonial period is highlighted. However, in Japan, the memories of colonization and the diaspora which resulted from it are erased while the universality of the tragedy of war is emphasized. By analyzing what parts of the memories of Yoon are remembered and forgotten in three cities – Seoul, Kyoto, and Long Jing, this paper explores the complexity of East Asian memory, created by the dissension and competition of different local memories of the same person.