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Memory Wars in East Asia I: Pluralistic Memories in Japan
Tuesday, November 18, 2014 - 6:00pm

Ken Ruoff, Portland State University

Professor of History and Director of the Center for Japanese Studies

November 18, 2014  6:00 p.m.
Smith Memorial Student Union 327/8
1825 SW Broadway
Free and Open to the Public

It is fashionable in some quarters, including in the Koreas and China, to claim that the Japanese do not remember the “past” (here meaning the period when Japan colonized and aggressed upon its neighbors), but are these claims even remotely true?   Japan is a liberal democracy with 127 million individuals who maintain a diversity of views about the “past,” and this pluralism is reflected at heritage sites (museums, etc.) in Japan which address the era when Imperial Japan was expanding its territory.   Based on extensive fieldwork, the lecture will show that memories of the “past” in Japan range from outright contrition (which Japanese right-wing critics refer to as “self-flagellation") to minority far rightist views that attempt to justify Japan’s colonial and wartime actions.  It is ludicrous to say that “the Japanese do not remember the past,” for the contrite line is far more common than the far rightist one, which unfortunately draws endless attention from outside observers of Japan who unknowingly or deceitfully portray it as representative of Japan overall.  This is the first lecture in a series about “Memory Wars in East Asia.”   

Dr. Ruoff is an internationally recognized historian researching how the history of East Asia is portrayed at heritage sites.  The Japanese translation of his first monograph, The People’s Emperor, was awarded Japan’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, the Osaragi Jiro Prize for Commentary, in 2004.  His second book, Imperial Japan at its Zenith, appeared simultaneously in Japanese translation, and was awarded the Frances Fuller Victor Award for nonfiction.  Copies of both the English and Japanese versions of his books will be for sale at the lecture (cash only). 

Cosponsored by the PSU Friends of History, PSU Institute for Asian Studies, Literary Arts, PSU Chapter of Phi Alpha Theta (National History Honor Society) and the PSU Japanese Student Society