AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 677

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Session 677: Textbook Dialogue in East Asia: The Experiences and Lessons of the History to Open the Future Project

Organizer: Lonny Carlile, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

Discussant: Samuel H Yamashita, Pomona College, USA

Internationalized conflict in East Asia over history textbooks has been conspicuous since 1982, and it was in 2001 amidst a particularly intense confrontation over Japanese Ministry of Education certification of a “neo-nationalist” middle school history textbook that major international efforts to engineer reconciliation over the issue were initiated at the governmental and nongovernmental levels. These efforts were generally conducted bilaterally and in virtually all cases were concluded or abandoned after a short period. The one prominent continuing and successful exception was a nongovernmental effort involving participants from China, Japan, and South Korea that produced and simultaneously published a common history of modern East Asia entitled A History to Open the Future in the three countries in 2005, and which is slated to publish a two-volume follow-up in spring 2011. Composed of presenters from the various countries involved in the project in various capacities, the present panel utilizes the experiences of the tri-national group to illuminate the dynamics of textbook dialogue in contemporary East Asia. Key questions addressed include the following: What specific issues were put forward by subgroups in the project, why were these considered important, and how were differences over these issues resolved? How did the substantive content and process involved differ from that of other generally bilateral intergovernmental and nongovernmental efforts? How does this group’s effort and its product compare with current academic research? What lessons can be learned from the group’s experience with respect to the pursuit of future textbook dialogue in East Asia?

East Asian-Style History Textbook Dialogue: A Retrospective Overview and Comparison with the European Experience
Ju-Back Sin, Yonsei University, South Korea

In 2002, at the height of an intense bout of ethno-nationalist conflict over history textbooks and historical memory more generally, China, Japan and South Korea initiated an “East Asian Model of History Text Dialogue” at two levels: at the governmental level and at the non-governmental level. At both levels the approach taken was different from that which unfolded in Europe . Using the European experience as a comparative back drop, the paper reviews the unfolding of this East Asian History Text Dialogue beginning with its prehistory (1982-1993), its period of gestation (1993-2002) and its unfolding since 2002. In the process it analyzes its distinctive features and dynamics. It then assesses the significance and desirable future direction of this dialogue and concludes that as a victim historically and as a divided nation, Korea should take an active role in this dialogue for the sake of its regional security and national reunification.

(De)Constructing A History to Open the Future: Structure and Process in East Asian History Dialogue
Lonny Carlile, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

What accounts for the high “productivity” of the A History to Open the Future project relative to other East Asian history text dialogues—or, specifically, its ability to establish a “shared history” where other efforts have failed? Synthesizing information and insights gained from observation of an editorial meeting of the group, interviews with participants, published recollections of the original compilation process and through the presenter's oversight of a project to translate and publish an English version of the 2005 volumes, the paper analyzes the factors that contributed to the project’s success and the characteristics of the resulting text. The paper argues that this productivity can be traced to several factors: the distinctive sociopolitical niches within the respective home countries occupied by those participating projects, the trilateral dialogue format adopted, the curricular resource orientation of the project, the emphasis on narrative and personal testimony rather than definitive fact in text production, the willingness to incorporate multiple perspectives, and the “deadline pressure” created by the Japanese textbook certification cycle. The paper concludes even as the nongovernmental textbook dialogue format pursued constitutes a critical first step toward the reconciliation of historical memory issues in East Asia and one that is rich with potentially applicable “lessons” for advancing toward reconciliation, ultimate reconciliation will require effective reconciliation at the intergovernmental level as well as nongovernmental dialogues and other initiatives that expand the sociopolitical scope of participation in such dialogue.

Establishing a Common Understanding of History: A Chinese Perspective
Chaoguang Wang, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China

The paper discusses the rationale and methodology of the tri-national non-governmental East Asian history textbook dialogue and assesses its accomplishments and shortcomings from the standpoint of a participant . Key goals of the dialogue were to correct distortions found in “right wing” textbooks utilized in some Japanese schools, to educate younger generations who did not directly experience the war and to promote mutual understanding among the peoples of the three countries. Knowledge of historical events in the region tend to be biased in favor of the events involving one’s own country and for this reason joint history texts produced through such dialogue are needed in order to create better understanding and relations among the countries involved. In establishing common facts and a shared perspective, it is important for those engaged in dialogue to engage in vigorous discussion and debate while maintaining respect for each other’s viewpoints. Among the accomplishments of the historical dialogue has been its ability to move beyond the traditional understandings of modern East Asian history in the respective countries and as a result this effort should contribute the establishment of peace in East Asia and, more broadly, the world.

The Usefulness of A History to Open the Future in History Teaching and Learning
Sam Hun Park, Independent Scholar, South Korea

A History to Open the Future takes a profound interest in the constructing method as well as content. This makes it a useful in teaching and learning history, particularly in Korea, China and Japan where history education is divided into national and world history, and history textbooks present history chronologically. A History to Open the Future supplements these shortcomings in the following ways. First, it can be utilized as material in comparative history education. Where history education is divided into national and world history and the syllabus is constructed chronologically, students have difficulty learning comparative history. By describing the inter-relational history among Korea, Chinese and Japan, A History to Open the Future highlights similarities and differences in relation to historical themes. Second, it is useful for a topic or thematic approach. Chronological history makes it difficult to describe a topic or event in depth. A History to Open the Future describes general history chronologically but, within chapters and sections, adopts a thematic or topic approach. Content omitted or described briefly in the main text is dealt with in detail in columns. Third, A History to Open the Future takes a narrative form, making reading the text interesting for students and it interpolates historical resources into main text, allowing readers to encounter original historical facts. Fourth, A History to Open the Future includes various sources and data, including photographs, maps and charts. Some are new ones that have not been seen in history textbooks before. These help students to understand history.

The 2011 Japanese Textbook Authorization Process and Textbook Dialogue: The Legal and Political Context
Norihiro Yoshida, Independent Scholar, Japan

The initial product of the non-governmental East Asian history textbook dialogue—the simultaneous publication in 2005 of A History to Open the Future in China, Japan and Korea—occurred in response to the authorization by the Japanese government of the “neoliberal” middle school history textbook. The textbook dialogue will be producing its second text in 2011. In between the publication of these two volumes, a major change has occurred in the legal and administrative context that determines the parameters that guide the textbook certification process—namely, the 2006 revision of the Basic Law on Education, and the consequent compilation of revised “course of study” guidelines. The paper discusses the legal and administrative structure as well as the political context surrounding the Japanese textbook authorization process and how these recent changes are likely to affect the current round of textbook authorization. It then analyzes the significance of the upcoming publication resulting from the textbook dialogue within this context.