Understanding the Asia-Pacific War

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Date / time: 17 July - 18 July, All day

Raeburn Room, Old College, University of Edinburgh

Understanding the Asia-Pacific War

An International Symposium in Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the End of the War

The University of Edinburgh, Raeburn Room, Old College

17-18 July 2015

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Asia-Pacific War, an event that has left a host of unresolved questions pertaining to history, collective memory, and contemporary understanding which, paradoxically, have become even more pressing as time has worn on.

What contributed to the horrendous escalation of violence in the Asia-Pacific theatre? How do we assess governmental responsibility for the conflict, and judge the contributions of citizens? How can we cope with competing memories and narratives in the postwar era, and why does the war still haunt Asia when many no longer have first-hand experience of it? Finally, what can studying this conflict teach us, and what is the role of historians in the process of making comprehensible what has been described as the ‘incomprehensible war’? This symposium seeks to address these questions and more, bringing together leading scholars from Japan, the United States, and Europe for informal discussion, reflection and debate.

There is no conference free, but due to limitations in seating space we request that you register in advance. Please contact Dr Hiromi Sasamoto-Collins, University of Edinburgh (hiromi.sasamoto-collins@ed.ac.uk).


Friday, 17 July 2015 (Raeburn Room, Old College)

2.00 – 3.45 Session 1

Yoshiaki YOSHIMI (Chūō University), Why Do the Comfort Women Matter? The Challenge of Overcoming the Past and its Significance

Ian NISH (London School of Economics), Japan, 1943 – 1948: Some Personal Reflections

3.45 – 4.15 Coffee break

4.15 – 6.00 Session 2

Rana MITTER (Oxford University), Unfinished Business: the Legacy of the Sino-Japanese War in Domestic and International Politics

Daqing YANG (George Washington University), The Paradox of Sino-Japanese Reconciliation: The Nanjing Atrocity and the Changing Frames of Remembrance

Saturday, 18 July 2015 (Raeburn Room, Old College)

9.00 – 10.45 Session 3

Urs Matthias ZACHMANN (University of Edinburgh), Japan’s Lawfare: Japanese Attitudes to International Law and the Law of War, 1937-1945

Rotem KOWNER (University of Haifa), Understanding Treatment of Prisoners of War in the Asia-Pacific War: The Prewar Evolution of Japanese Attitudes to POWs

and the Specific Circumstances in the Theater

10.45 – 11.15 Coffee break

11.15 – 1.00 Session 4

James ORR (Bucknell University), Hiroshima and Tokyo: a Tale of Two Cities in the Collective Remembrance of War

Lauren RICHARDSON (University of Edinburgh): Pyongyang’s Hiroshima and the Politics of Victimhood in Japan-DPRK Relations

1.00 – 2.00 Lunch

2.00 – 3.15 Session 5

Franziska SERAPHIM (Boston College), Breaking down Victims and Perpetrators: Transnational Patterns and the Question of Historical Ethics

Gotelind MÜLLER-SAINI (Heidelberg University), Comment: Contemporary Chinese Representations of the War, Marginalised War Experiences, and the Role of the Historian: Some Preliminary Remarks

3.15 – 3.30 Coffee break

3.30 – 5.00 Concluding Discussion