News

Prof. Ken Ruoff to present lectures on Japanese and Korean WWII heritage sites
Author: Center for Japanese Studies
Posted: November 12, 2014

Ken Ruoff, senior professor of Modern East Asian History and the director of Portland State University’s Center for Japanese Studies, will present “Memory Wars in East Asia,” two major lectures this academic year on the ways that governments and citizenry in the East Asian countries remember the colonial and imperialistic eras. 

The first lecture on Nov. 18 will focus on the pluralistic manner in which Japan’s modern history, including that country’s darkest chapters, is represented at heritage sites in Japan. His second lecture on Feb. 26 is about the manner in which exhibits at key national heritage sites in and around Seoul, the capital of South Korea, provide a highly nationalistic account of Korean history. Both of these lectures are based on Ruoff's extensive fieldwork in those two nations and start at 6 p.m. in PSU’s Smith Memorial Student Union, rooms 327/8. They are free and open to the public. 

Professor Ruoff's research shows how national heritage sites, such as the ones in Japan and Korea he will be discussing in his lectures, shape popular historical consciousness.

"Presently in East Asia, there is what might be termed a nasty ‘memory war’ transpiring between countries such as Japan, China, and Korea over how to interpret the past, especially conflicts between these countries, even as individuals in these countries themselves disagree over how to interpret their country’s modern experience," Ruoff says. "When analyzing any historical narrative, it is important to focus not only on what details are present in the narrative, but also on what details are missing, and this is very much the case with the narratives of national history that are presented at heritage sites throughout East Asia."  

Dr. Ruoff is an internationally recognized scholar. The Japanese translation of his first book, The People’s Emperor: Democracy and the Japanese Monarchy was awarded Japan’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, the Osaragi Jiro Prize for Commentary presented by the Asahi Newspaper, in 2004. His second book, Imperial Japan at its Zenith, was awarded the Frances Fuller Victor Award for Nonfiction, and a Japanese translation of the work was published simultaneously as the English version in the prestigious Asahi sensho series. Both works were widely read in Japan. Most recently, Ruoff published the article “Japanese Tourism to Mukden, Nanjing, and Qufu, 1938-1943” in the summer 2014 issue of Japan Review. 

Professor Ruoff completed his B.A. with honors at Harvard College, and the Ph.D. at Columbia University. He has been a guest researcher at various universities in Japan, including Kyoto University while on a Fulbright grant. During the winter 2015 term Professor Ruoff will teach courses titled "Japan in Global History" and "Modern History of Korea." In spring of 2015 he will offer "Topics in Modern Japanese History" and another course on “Modern East Asia.”