Traveling Memories, Contagious Justice, Americanization of Japanese War Crimes at the End of the P

Traveling Memories, Contagious Justice, Americanization of Japanese War Crimes at the End of the P

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TRAVELING MEMORIES, CONTAGIOUS JUSTICE: Americanization of Japanese War Crimes at the End of the Post-Cold War 1 lisa yoneyama JAAS FEBRUARY 2003 • 57–93 © THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY PRESS And there we are, ready to run the great Yankee risk. So, once again, be careful! American domination—the only domination from which one never recovers. I mean from which one never recovers unscarred. (Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism ) 2 T HIS PAPER IS ABOUT A POLITICS of redress. It explores within the contextof the multiracial United States those practices that seek reparations for historical injuries caused by Japanese imperialism over half a century ago. The discourse on redressive justice related to the Asia-Pacific War(s) (1937–45) cannot be discussed fully without disentangling a complex set of historical assumptions and the formation of knowledge about moder- nity, liberalism, colonialism, and post-coloniality in both Asia and the United States. 3 I do not have the ability to tackle all these issues within this paper’s limits. Instead, I will focus on exploring what might be called the “Americanization” of redress and historical justice, and on considering how Asian/America, as a discursively constituted terrain, has been impli- cated in that process. 4 I will examine the ways in which legal and other discursive forces have produced the Asian/American as the agent-subject through and over which demands for different kinds of historical justice are negotiated, realized or deferred. I argue that American discourse on redress is largely compromised by U.S. nationalism and yet cannot escape
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58 JAAS 6:1 the contradictions of transnationality necessarily posited by Asian/ America, thus holding out the possibility of contagious justice. 5 Over the past decade, a number of lawsuits have been filed by people of Asia and the Pacific to demand reparations from the Japanese govern- ment and corporations for their sexual and other forms of violence dur- ing the Second World War. While much of the redress movement has thus far been pursued mainly in Asia, recently it has begun to involve U.S. legal as well as legislative channels. That is, the discourse on redress and reparation has increasingly become an “American” concern. I will call this process the “Americanization of Japanese war crimes,” and more gener- ally, the “Americanization of world justice.” This process of “American- ization”—which this paper may prove to be that of “Asian/Americaniza- tion” more precisely—is neither singular nor uniform. It consists of multifold dimensions of transnational and national processes that involve actors and institutions at multiple levels both within and outside the United States. By deploying the notion of “Americanization” as an ana- lytic that attempts to capture such multivalent meanings and processes, I wish to bring to the fore the contradictory and uneven ways in which past injustices committed by Japanese colonial and military power have come to be known.
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Traveling Memories, Contagious Justice, Americanization of Japanese War Crimes at the End of the P

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