“Heritage, conflicted sites and bordered memories in Asia” Conference Programme – July 31

July 18 and 31, 2020 – ONLINE (Zoom), through Kyushu University Border Studies

Friday 31 July, 9:30-12:30 (JST)

DAY 2: Contesting and Memorializing Sites of Heritage

Session 3: Edges of the Nation

“Desecration or Veneration: The Legacy of Shinto Shrines at the Borders of Imperial Japan”, Karli Shimizu (Hokkaido University)

By the end of World War II, the Empire of Japan stretched from the snowy plains of Hokkaido in the North to the tropical island of Taiwan in the South. Both of these peripheral territories, however, were only incorporated into the Japanese state in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The construction of Shinto shrines in these new territories was seen essential to their colonisation and modernization by the Imperial government. Shrines, often established in a top-down manner by the national or local government, were given the role of fostering a sense of loyalty and patriotism in the unruly population of indigenous peoples and settlers alike. Despite Shinto shrines having a similar role in both these areas during the prewar period, the perception of these shrines’ relationship with local deities has developed significant differences in these areas in the postwar. On one hand, Shinto shrines have commonly been seen as agents of colonial oppression and have been accused of desecrating indigenous deities. In other cases, Shinto shrines have become symbols of multiculturalism and have on occasion been adopted as a part of local veneration customs. This paper looks how the interaction between Shinto shrines, local deities, and national borders prewar and postwar has affected the complex legacy of overseas Shinto shrines.

“Remembering the Battle of Okinawa in the Yaeyamas”, Edward Boyle (Kyushu University)

This paper will introduce the concept of ‘Borders of Memory’ and apply it to the commemoration of the Pacific War that occurs in the Yaeyamas, the southernmost island group in Okinawa prefecture. The concept of ‘Borders of Memory’ aims to shed light on the links between memory and heritage by examining how heritage sites serve as spaces within which collective memory is able to be both affirmed and contested This allows us to survey the contours of the borders of memory that exist between different memory collectives. It is the competing meanings invested in the site, and the struggle over the narrative within which it is incorporated, that results in such sites coming to be demarcated as borders of memory. Understanding heritage sites as bordered spaces allows us to see them as being not only places in which antagonistic collective memories come into contact, but also spaces through which they connect. The paper will outline how the different scales at which the War in the Yaeyamas is able to be remembered means that its heritage sites remain cut through by borders of memory.

“Museum Education through Reenactment: Considering Historical Sites in Korea and Japan”, Jason Mark Alexander (Kyushu University)

The National Memorial Museum of Forced Mobilization under Japanese Occupation is a memorialized site of Pusan’s colonial history. Multiple aspects of the museum, like life-size mine tunnels and immersive soundscapes, place the viewer in the shoes of Korean laborers who labored and suffered under Japanese imperial rule. What are the positive and negative aspects of recreating the conditions of tragedy for museum audiences to walk through? There are museums similar in format and theme within Japan, but they are relatively toned-down. Drawing upon studies of communal memory of dark history, along with scholarship surveying the status of Korea-related museums in Japan, I investigate the coverage of colonization and war in museum education. Museums that aim to reenact the past need to cater to both adult and children as audiences to their exhibits. Appeals to emotions may indirectly inflame nationalist sentiments. Overall, experiential learning exhibits seem effective in how they convey emotional truths to the viewers, as they try to teach about trauma in an intimate manner that encourages empathy and peace.

Commentator: Jonathan Bull (Hokkaido University)

Session 4: Narrating Ruptures

“Collective history-making of WWII through dark educational tourism in Japan”, Kaori Yoshida and Huong Bui (Ritsumeikan Asia-Pacific University)

More than seventy years have passed since the end of WWII, and those who experienced the war first-hand have been dramatically disappearing. In the meantime, there is urgent need to seek for a new way to teach historical lessons to younger generations within the context of dramatic technological development and complex politico-social structure in Asia. In this circumstance various tourism operations, such as “dark tourism” (Lennon & Foley 2000), play an extremely important role in articulating collective memories of the war, while the growth of inbound tourists bringing with them different philosophical and political views has posed great challenges for dark tourism in Japan. This paper, viewing war-related museums and their materials as texts that articulate particular narratives, attempts to explicate the mechanism that operates between the texts and visitors. It focuses on two ever-ambivalent dark tourism destinations, Peace Museum in Okinawa and Chiran Peace Museum in Kagoshima, where the “dark” and the “light” paradoxically, yet meticulously interact, and demonstrates how particular memories are shaped as a national or local branding by means of tourism through narrativization. The paper analyzes the brochures of those museums, the museum layouts along with the neighboring areas that would significantly affect the interpretation of the museums as a part of story-teller. Grounded from critical discourse analysis and field observations, authors generalize a comprehensive theoretical model of the interactions between visitors and the dark sites incorporating contrasted aspect of interpretations of controversial and conflicted war-related sites in Japan.    

“The War Memorial of Korea, its Representation of War, and Citizens’ Struggle over Contested Memories on South Korea’s Burdening Past”, Dasom Lee (Independent Scholar)

The War Memorial of Korea was built under the last military regime in South Korea, the Roh Tae-woo administration, and it remains a Cold War zone. The War Memorial particularly has been criticized for not mentioning South Korea’s horrific involvement in the Vietnam War, including civilian massacre and sexual violence against women. Additionally, the Memorial doesn’t talk about another of South Korea’s burdening pasts, that a considerable number of South Korean soldiers who participated in the Vietnam War killed a great many civilians in Gwangju, 1980 as well, when citizens in Gwangju marched together for democracy and to raise their angry voices against Chun Doo-hwan’s military authoritarian regime. And many of the soldiers were traumatized in the aftermath of this.  Standing against such problematic representations at the War Memorial of Korea, an anti-war organization in South Korea called Civilian Military Watch tries to challenge the official narrative of the Memorial. My ethnography traces what the War Memorial of Korea doesn’t say, which memories become a “burdening past” for the South Korean state, and how the Civilian Military Watch plays a role in memory activism while creating domestic and transnational solidarity to produce counter-narratives.

“Framing negative heritage in disaster risk education: school memorials after 3.11”, Julia Gerster and Flavia Fulco (Tohoku University)

The disasters of March 11, 2011, washed away whole villages on the coast of Northeast Japan and destroyed the lives of thousands. Meskell (2012: 558) describes such places as “negative heritage, a conflictual site that becomes the repository of negative memory in the collective imaginary.” As the recovery of the Tohoku region in Northeast Japan continues, debates arose about which ruins should be kept as memorials. Most places chosen to be preserved represent cases of good evacuation practice. However, some survivors fought for keeping also those places where their relatives died, and the evacuation procedures failed to save them. In this paper, we explore the construction of the narratives surrounding two schools preserved as memorials in Miyagi Prefecture. While Arahama Elementary became a safe haven for 320 people, Okawa Elementary became an example of bad evacuation practice that led to the death of 74 children and 10 teachers. Drawing on the analysis of the “exhibitions,” the preservation efforts and first-hand accounts offered at the two sites, we aim to contribute to the understanding of the importance of negative heritage in disaster risk education. The process of framing negative heritage within the collective memory of the different communities is also crucial to understand the effect of the disaster on the local identities.

Commentator: Shu-Mei Huang (National Taiwan University)

REGISTER FOR DAY 2 HERE: https://forms.gle/idaqhJRvcTFrHs3b8

2 Replies to ““Heritage, conflicted sites and bordered memories in Asia” Conference Programme – July 31”

  1. Unfortunately, the time frame of the conference makes it impossible to participate while in Israel (6 hrs difference). It would be nice to watch if the conference is recorded.



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