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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Contested Historiography – Feminist Perspectives on World War II

April 13 - April 14, 2000

Women’s history has been for many years a well-established and productive field within historical studies. Remarkable amounts of data about women’s experiences have been gathered, which provide ample evidence for the significance of women as historical actors. It became clear in the process, however, that if women were also to become the subjects of historical narratives and if women’s history was to be more than an appendix to the field, questions of theory needed to be addressed. Thus a crucial issue has been how this “new knowledge about women” can be employed in a feminist project of “rewriting history” that would also effect changes within the discipline of history itself.

In Japan, the feminist project of rewriting history gained momentum when, in the early nineties, Japan’s “comfort women” system (i.e. Japan’s military sexual slavery system during WWII) became the focus of national and international attention. Ever since, the “comfort women” issue has constituted the pivotal point for Japanese feminist historical and sociological research. Likewise, it has incited an intense debate on Vergangenheitsbewältigung (jap. sensō/sengo sekinin) in Japan among feminists and other critical scholars on one side, and conservative and revisionist thinkers on the other. The ensuing discussion of how to approach both methodologically and politically the question of women’s agency during the war – whether in the context of the “comfort women” issue or of Japanese women’s involvement in the war effort – has also thrown into relief the differences in thought and strategies among feminist researchers. Similar concerns have occupied European and American researchers of modern history for some while now, resulting in a prolific scholarship on the relations between gender, war, and nationalism.

At this point in the debate, it seems particularly valuable to take a critical look at the efforts and results of the past decade and to share, compare, and discuss the problems within an international forum. Our symposium thus pursues two aims. Firstly, it intends to bring together – from Japan and abroad – representatives of the various schools within feminist scholarship and to offer insights into their respective research projects. Secondly, it aims to facilitate an international exchange and debate of the critical concepts and of the problems which feminist historiography faces, especially when dealing with the more recent past.

Speakers and Discussants will, among others, include (in alphabetical order):
Fujime Yuki (Japanese History/Gender Studies, Japan)
Kim Puja (Gender Studies and History of Korean Education, Japan)
Kōra Rumiko (Writer, Japan)
Claudia Koonz (Modern German History and Women’s History, USA)
Ilse Lenz (Sociology, Japanese Women’s Movements, FRG)
Matsui Yayori (Journalist, Founder of VAWW-net Japan)
Tessa Morris-Suzuki (Japanese Modern History, Australia)
Nakahara Michiko (South East Asian History, Japan)
Gisela Notz (German Political History, FRG)
Ōgoshi Aiko (Gender Studies, Philosophy, Japan)
Gudrun Schwarz (Modern German History and Women’s History, FRG)
Suzuki Yūko (Japanese Women’s History, Japan)
Ueno Chizuko (Sociology, Gender Studies, Japan)


Day 1         April 13th (Thursday)

Opening Greetings

Introduction to the Symposium

Panel 1: Feminist Discourses on Gender, Nation, and War

Gender, nation, and war in Germany and Japan: Changes in Feminist Discourses

Ilse Lenz (Univ. Bochum)

Re-narrating Memory

Ueno, Chizuko (Univ. of Tōkyō)

16:10 - 17:30
Panel 3: Gendered Violence

Approaches to the issue of Japan's military sexual slavery system - the paradigm change from 'victim' to 'aggressor'

Suzuki Yūko (The Academic Society for “Women, War, and Human Rights”)

Women's history and the paradigm of sexual violence

Fujime, Yuki (Ōsaka University of Foreign Languages)

Discussion and Final Discussion of Day 1

Day 2         April 14th (Friday)

Panel 4: Mobilization and the Issue of Womens's Agency

Mobilizing Women for Total War II in Germany and Japan

Claudia Koonz (Duke University)

Women of the 'homefront': Japan's National Defense Women's Association

Kanō, Mikiyo

"Masters of the Future": Women in the Nazi SS-Corps

Gudrun Schwarz (Hamburg Institute for Social Research)

Panel 5: History and Narrative: Exploring New Forms in Feminist Historical Studies

Vergangenheitsbewältigung and new political perspectives - Social Democratic female parlamentarians after 1945

Gisela Notz (Friedrich Ebert Foundation)

Biography of a pacifist: The life and thought of Kōra Tomi

Kōra, Rumiko

Panel 6: Herstory - Remembrance, Responsibility, and Reconciliation

Public memory vs. personal history: Interviewing former

Nakahara, Michiko (Waseda Univ.)

Japan's military sexual slavery system and the responsibility of the Japanese women's movement. The aims of the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal

Matsui, Yayori (VAWW-NET Japan)

Closing Remarks

Day 1         April 13th (Thursday)

14:00 - 15:50
Panel 2: Feminism, Nationalism, Post-Colonialism

Who tells the story? Race, class, and gender in history and historiography

Kim Puja (Ochanomizu Univ.)

The pitfalls of Japanese Historical Revisionism

Ōgoshi Aiko (Kinki University)

Related Research Projects

Japan in Asia