To view this PAPER PRESENTATION, search for the session title in the Browse by Titlelisting. (See the session title located immediately below ["In Session:"])
In Session: Pacifism, Human Rights, Popular Movement, and “History Activism”: The “Postwar” as a Transnational Space
1: Beyond Postwar, Beyond Nation: "Human Rights" and the "History Problem" in Postwar Japan
Monday, March 22, 2021
10:00am – 11:30am EDT
University of Chicago, United States
My presentation explores the root of the stalemate over the historical understanding in Asia today around colonial and wartime atrocities of Japan, and argues that the reforms and activism around the concept of jinken (lit. “human rights”) lies at the heart at this condition of the “never ending postwar” for Japan. How did the so-called “history problems” in Asia, such as the “comfort women” issues, come to be articulated in terms of jinken and frequently featured in transnational lawsuits, mock tribunals, and even the UN and the U.S. congress? This presentation goes back to 40s and 50s Japan and focuses on the jinken reform carried out by the Occupation and liberal Japanese legal professionals and the later rebellion and reappropriation of it by conservative Japanese elites. During the Occupation, American and European activists like Roger Nash Baldwin (commissioned by GHQ) and Japanese lawyers and legal bureaucrats created a jinken regime consisting of the “civil liberties commission” system (jinken yōgo seido) and groups like the Japan Civil Liberties Union (JCLU, Jiyū Jinken Kyōkai). Contrary to the intent of its non-Japanese creators, this system played a crucial role in the popular movement calling for early release of Japanese war criminals in the 50s, and became the paradigm for movements about Okinawa reversion and issues of zainichi Koreans and the burakumin. I argue that this system, with its constant inner struggle between its nationalistic and universalistic tendencies, predetermined the internationalization of and stalemate over the “history problem” of Japan since the late 80s.