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Hiroshima Traces

Hiroshima Traces: Time, Space, and the Dialectics of Memory

Lisa Yoneyama
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: 1
Pages: 301
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  • Book Info
    Hiroshima Traces
    Book Description:

    Remembering Hiroshima, the city obliterated by the world's first nuclear attack, has been a complicated and intensely politicized process, as we learn from Lisa Yoneyama's sensitive investigation of the "dialectics of memory." She explores unconventional texts and dimensions of culture involved in constituting Hiroshima memories-including history textbook controversies, discourses on the city's tourism and urban renewal projects, campaigns to preserve atomic ruins, survivors' testimonial practices, ethnic Koreans' narratives on Japanese colonialism, and the feminized discourse on peace-in order to illuminate the politics of knowledge about the past and present. In the way battles over memories have been expressed as material struggles over the cityscape itself, we see that not all share the dominant remembering of Hiroshima's disaster, with its particular sense of pastness, nostalgia, and modernity. The politics of remembering, in Yoneyama's analysis, is constituted by multiple and contradictory senses of time, space, and positionality, elements that have been profoundly conditioned by late capitalism and intensifying awareness of post-Cold War and postcolonial realities.Hiroshima Traces, besides clarifying the discourse surrounding this unforgotten catastrophe, reflects on questions that accompany any attempts to recover marginalized or silenced experiences. At a time when historical memories around the globe appear simultaneously threatening and in danger of obliteration, Yoneyama asks how acts of remembrance can serve the cause of knowledge without being co-opted and deprived of their unsettling, self-critical qualities.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-91489-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Prologue
    (pp. vii-xiv)

    Hiroshima Tracesis a product of unfolding dialogues. It grows out of, and has undergone numerous transformations as a result of, the conversations and other interactions I have had with many individuals over the years. Intellectual trajectories are full of wonder. They are shaped by unanticipated personal encounters, both within and outside academia, and this book reflects the many pleasurable, unexpected, and sometimes painful turns that I have made during the years in which it has been in progress. I can at long last thank all those who have contributed in many different but equally valuable ways to my research...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-40)

    In tracing the development of Japan’s architectural modernism from the 1920s to the 1940s, the historian Inoue Shōichi offers an arresting story about the possible aesthetic origins of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Situated at the heart of the city, close to the site of the atomic bomb’s detonation, the park was built on a vast, open field of ashes created by the explosion. The park’s location was once the city’s busiest downtown commercial and residential district, crowded with shops, residences, inns, and theaters. Today the commemorative space accommodates a number of memorials and monuments, museums, and lecture halls and...


    • CHAPTER 1 Taming the Memoryscape
      (pp. 43-65)

      In 1989 the city of Hiroshima observed two commemorative events. The centennial celebrating the municipal administration’s establishment marked the city’s official incorporation into the modern regime during the Meiji era (1868-1912.).¹ The other event, the quadricentennial of the construction of Hiroshima Castle, commemorated an achievement that was understood to have paved the way for the city’s development as an early modern castle town. The city announced that the year indicated a “turning point” (fushime), a marker that would inaugurate a new historical era. Numerous corporate and administrative events and projects were planned in order to celebrate this year of special...

    • CHAPTER 2 Memories in Ruins
      (pp. 66-82)

      A large part of the production of Hiroshima’s “bright” new memory-scape involved the clearing away of physical reminders of the war and atomic destruction, and the redefining of memories through spatial and temporal containment. Demolitions, dismantlings, and reconstructions of a number of architectural remains from the bombing have certainly been some of the most effective measures to alter or expel, at least from urban surfaces, sites that might induce painful and disturbing memories. During the late 1980s a number of buildings, walls, and bridges that had survived the atomic explosion of 6 August 1945 to that time were razed, one...


    • CHAPTER 3 On Testimonial Practices
      (pp. 85-111)

      Narrating one’s own experiences of surviving the atomic bomb, whether in speech, in writing, or in pictorial forms, is inextricably tied to the constitution of a narrator’s subjecthood. During the early postwar years, the conventional discursive settings that urged people to tell their stories subjected them to the truth paradigms within which they spoke and produced the narrators of nuclear victimization ashibakusha; literally, “those subjected to the bomb and/or radiation.” The identity of ahibakushaas a one-dimensional speaking subject was constituted by prioritizing the speaker’s ontological relationship to the bomb over his or her numerous other social relationships...

    • CHAPTER 4 Mnemonic Detours
      (pp. 112-148)

      For our very first encounter on 20 March 1989, Numata Suzuko, whose testimonial practices I discuss in this chapter, designated a meeting place inside the Peace Memorial Park: a particular parasol tree. I immediately understood why; from the visual and print media, I knew well that the tree had served her as a kind of totem. A parasol tree had been growing in the courtyard of the building where Numata worked at the time of the bombing but it had died in the nuclear blast—or so it was thought. Yet it miraculously revived several years after the war. Though...


    • CHAPTER 5 Ethnic and Colonial Memories: The Korean Atom Bomb Memorial
      (pp. 151-186)

      In performing acts of remembrance—erecting memorials, testifying, holding public commemorations, or writing autobiographical histories, for instance—one seeks to reterritorialize the existing cartography of memory. Such acts authorize the past, marking it with a signature distinct from that of others. To possess and present one’s own memories is inextricably tied to questions of power and autonomy. Inscribing a unique way of remembering—whether collective or individual—onto a society’s history ensures that that presence will be visible and that voice heard in the production of discourses on the past.

      The erection in 1970 of a memorial dedicated to the...

    • CHAPTER 6 Postwar Peace and the Feminization of Memory
      (pp. 187-210)

      Reflecting on the intellectual genealogy of postwar Japan, political philosopher Maruyama Masao once identified the genesis of what he called a “community of contrition” (kaikon kyōdōtai) in the immediate aftermath of the war. Widely sharing experiences of the wartime regime, military defeat, and subsequent changes of the postwar years, the “community of contrition,” as Maruyama observed, emerged out of a sense of urgency for a “new start based on some fundamental reflections upon the past.”¹ In various ways, the intellectuals shared a compelling sense of guilt, remorse, and self-criticism; they were also keenly aware of the (ir)responsible positions they had...

  8. Epilogue
    (pp. 211-218)

    When descriptions about a past incident have been expunged from official histories through formal or informal censorship, witnesses and their listeners tend to feel a painful—and, over time, growing—urgency about the task of contributing to positive knowledge through their recountings. As the recent lawsuits brought by women formerly subjected to sexual enslavement by the Japanese military demonstrate, the sense of crisis is heightened even more when the witnesses’ firsthand accounts appear to provide the only means for verifying that an event took place.

    Even in the case of Hiroshima, where those who used the atomic bomb have not...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 219-270)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 271-290)
  11. Index
    (pp. 291-298)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 299-299)