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In Session: Literary and Cinematic Afterlives of Empire in Japan and Korea
2: Imperial Testaments: Repatriation and Reconstruction in Postwar Japan
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
University of British Columbia, Canada
Although the Japanese empire theoretically disappeared off the map in 1945 following Japan’s defeat by the Allied Powers, the competing narratives of place and belonging that had been engendered by Japanese imperialism were not so easily erased; instead, they would continue to configure and dis-figure physical, human, and cultural geographies across the transpacific region. This paper continues the conversation begun by Deokhyo Choi by looking at repatriate memoirs, interviews, and fiction published by women writers in Japan from the 1940s through the 1960s in order to illuminate the gendered process whereby Japan was reconstituted from “multiethnic empire” to “peaceful nation-state.” It focuses in particular on Fujiwara Tei’s repatriation narrative The Shooting Stars are Alive (Nagareru hoshi wa ikite iru), which was an immediate commercial success when it was published in Japan in 1949 – and a bestseller in another country as well: South Korea. In tracing out how Fujiwara’s book has circulated in postwar East Asia and how various voices of empire were amplified – or silenced – through the book’s translation, this paper will reveal how the mutually constituted politics of decolonization (in Korea) and postwar reconstruction (in Japan) were not an aberration from the discourse on masculinized national victimhood but the very consequence of it.