The Politics of War Related Heritage in Contemporary Asia Symposium, September 5-6, 2019

More than 70 years on, arguments over how to handle the heritage of the Asia-Pacific War still provoke intense controversy both within Japan and across the East Asian region. While much research has analysed controversies surrounding the narration of the war in school curricula, this symposium focuses on the treatment of ‘war as heritage’. Papers discuss what is (or is not) officially or publicly commemorated, and why, and how particular places or documents related to the war have come to be designated as heritage. As well as discussing the interpretation of the heritage or memory of war in museums, memorials and other publicly-curated sites, the presenters also discuss the role of grass-roots civil society movements in advocating different perspectives on past conflict.

This symposium builds on an ongoing interdisciplinary project on the politics of war memory in Asian societies – the WARMAP project – led by Dr. Mark Frost and Dr. Daniel Schumacher of the University of Essex, Prof. Edward Vickers of Kyushu University and Prof. Tim Winter of The University of Western Australia. It is held with support from The Resona Asia-Oceania Foundation, The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, Kyushu University’s ‘Progress 100’ Program, and the university’s ‘Collaborative Platform for Research and Education in the Humanities and Social Sciences’.

VENUE: Kyushu University Nishijin Plaza (九州大学 西新プラザ)

For directions see:

The FULL PROGRAMME (with abstracts for the presentations) can be downloaded HERE



DAY ONE (Thursday, September 5)

Welcome and opening remarks (9:15-9:30)

Edward Vickers (Kyushu University)

Mark Frost (University of Essex), WARMAP coordinator

Session 1 (9:30-10:45) (Leader: Mark Frost, University of Essex)

History, Historiography and Public Culture

This session discusses the history and politics of conflict commemoration in contemporary Asia, with particular reference to memories of the Asia-Pacific War. It will analyze both what has been commemorated, and why issues of war remembrance have acquired political significance at particular times and in particular places across the region.

Speakers: Amae Yoshihisa (Chung Jung Christian University), Hayashi Hiro (Kyushu University), Yujie Zhu (ANU)

Amae Yoshihisa: When the Bombs Came Down: The Politics of Commemorating Air Raids on Taiwan during the Second World War

Hayashi Hiro: Chinese Diaspora and the Atomic Bomb: Sata Ineko's Depiction of Long-term Chinese Residents in The Shade of Trees

Yujie Zhu: Heritage-making of war memories: Remembering the Nanjing Massacre in nation-building

BREAK: 10:45-11:00

Session 2 (11:00-12:15) (Leader: Ann Heylen, National Taiwan Normal University)

Commemorating Conflict: Education, State Propaganda and Museums

This session analyses the narration of histories of conflict in vehicles for state propaganda and/or political socialization – especially school textbooks and museums. The speakers will discuss how the narration of experiences of war and occupation has been related to official discourses of national identity in contemporary Asian societies. A key theme will be the relationship between the construction of national ‘selves,’ often conceived in terms of victimhood and (violated) innocence, and the frequent portrayal of ‘others’ as malevolent perpetrators of violence or invasion.

Speakers: Huang Shumei (NTU), Edward Vickers (Kyushu University), Yang Biao (ECNU)

Yang Biao: The construction of national ‘self’ and ‘others’ in China’s history textbooks (中国历史教科书中的自国形象构建和他者叙述)

Edward Vickers: Mapping Kyushu’s War Memoryscape

Huang Shu-mei: Whose difficult memories/heritage of war and imprisonment? Understanding the juxtaposition of Jewish ghetto with Tilanqiao Prison in Shanghai

LUNCH BREAK: 12:15-13:15

Session 3 (13:15-15:35) (Leader: Edward Vickers, Kyushu University)

The ‘Comfort Women’ Issue as Contested Heritage

This session takes as its focus what is nowadays perhaps the most fraught and controversial issue in the commemoration of the Asia-Pacific War: the ‘comfort women’ issue. Campaigns for recognition of the suffering of these women have continued since the 1990s, but in recent years have entered a new phase as the victims themselves gradually pass away. The drive to commemorate the ‘comfort women’ led, in 2016, to a joint application to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, which was blocked following intense pressure from Japan. This session features four papers on different aspects of the campaigns to research and commemorate the experiences of ‘comfort women,’ including contributions by scholars prominently involved in these campaigns.

慰安婦 紛争遺産問題


Speakers: Caroline Norma (RMIT), Heisoo Shin (Ewha Women’s University), Xiaoyang Hao (Kyushu University), Su Zhiliang (Shanghai Normal University), Naoko Kinoshita (independent scholar)

Xiaoyang Hao: The Chinese “Comfort Women” Litigations in the 1990s and 2000s


Heisoo Shin: Voices of the ‘Comfort Women’: The Power Politics to Stifle the Voices and the Resistance of the Civil Movements


Caroline Norma: Justice for the Japanese wartime ‘comfort women’: A contemporary campaign against military sexual violence, or prostitution?

キャロライン・ノーマ: 日本の戦時中の「慰安婦」への正義:軍による性暴力あるいは売春に対する現代のキャンペーン

Su Zhiliang: Reconstructing the historical truth regarding wartime ‘comfort women’ – the results of 28 years of research into the ‘comfort women’ issue in China

蘇智良: 戦時中の「慰安婦」に関する歴史的真実の再構築➖28年間にわたる中国の「慰安婦」問題の研究結果

(重建战时“慰安妇”制度的史实 ——中国28年来“慰安妇”问题的调查结论和成果)

中文发表 (Presentation delivered in Chinese, with English and Japanese on the PowerPoint slides and consecutive translation into English)

Prof. Su’s paper (with English translation) can be viewed here.

Naoko Kinoshita: Resisting the Politicisation of Images: Considering the relationship between nationalism and Korean ‘comfort women’ statues and films

木下直子: 「イメージの政治に抗して――少女像・韓国「慰安婦」映画のナショナリズムを考える」

BREAK: 15:35-16:00

FILM SCREENING followed by discussion with the director, MIKI DEZAKI (16:00-18:50)

SHUSENJO - The Main Battleground of the Comfort Women Issue (2019)

DAY TWO (Friday, September 6)

Session 4 (9:20-11:00) (Leader: Jung-sun N. Han, Korea University)

Conflict Heritage, Tourism and the Built Environment

In this session, the speakers – including architects, political scientists and historians – will discuss the importance across contemporary Asia of heritage sites, both as symbols of a national or communal past, and as resources for a growing (and often transnational) tourist industry. Speakers will discuss how and why particular sites have been protected, destroyed or reconstructed, and the implications of this for domestic discourses on identity, and for international relations.

Speakers: Jung-Sun N. Han (Korea University), Mark Frost (Essex University), Wantanee Suntikul (Hong Kong Polytechnic University), Mark Maca (independent scholar)

Jung-Sun N. Han: Darkling Ventures: The Making of Dark Heritage in Contemporary Japan

Mark Frost: The City and War Remembrance

Wantanee Suntikul: A Contested Dark Tourism Site: The Death Railway in Thailand

Mark Maca: Commemorating War and Occupation in the Philippines Today

BREAK (11:00-11:20)

Session 5 (11:20-13:00) (Leader: Tim Winter, University of Western Australia)

Politics, Diplomacy and Conflict-related Heritage

In this session, Tim Winter, one of the most prominent experts on the international politics of heritage, will lead a discussion of recent transnational arguments over conflict commemoration. A particular focus here will be on UNESCO’s schemes for registering ‘World Heritage Sites’ or ‘Memory of the World’. The speakers will discuss particular controversies in comparative perspective, in an attempt to elucidate the reasons why these UNESCO processes have become a particular source of international controversy in the East Asian region.

Speakers: Tim Winter (UWA), Ryoko Nakano (Kanazawa University), Emilia Heo (APU), Daniel Schumacher (Essex University)

Tim Winter: Peace Diplomacy and Japanese Silk Road Multilateralism

Ryoko Nakano: Heritage as a ‘thing’ in international politics: memory politics and ontological insecurity in East Asia

Emilia Heo: Remember to Reconcile? Exploring Conflict Narratives in Contemporary Asia

Daniel Schumacher: Asia’s Global Memory Wars and Solidarity Across Borders

LUNCH: 13:00-14:00

Session 6 (14:00-15:40) (Leader: Tomoko Ako, University of Tokyo)

Civil Society, Grassroots Movements and Conflict Commemoration

While previous sessions mostly deal with the politics of conflict commemoration from the perspective of the state (or of international bodies like UNESCO), in this session the speakers will consider war remembrance from a grassroots perspective. Speaking in many cases from personal experience, they will reflect on the reasons why groups of activists have coalesced around particular issues, and on the official and popular reception that has met such campaigns for commemoration or preservation of war-related heritage. Besides campaigns for commemoration of the Asia-Pacific War, the session also features discussion of others (in Korea and Taiwan) focused on post-war conflict that acknowledge (or arouse) different patterns of antagonism.

Speakers: Tomoko Ako (Tokyo), Watanabe Yosuke (Osaka University of Economics and Law), Shichi Mike Lan (National Chengchi University), Hamzah Muzaini (Singapore National University)

Hamzah Muzaini: Heritage ‘from Below’ in the Remembrance of the Second World War in Perak, Malaysia

Tomoko Ako: Why does 'peace' become taboo? International and unintentional oblivion of memories of war --- The case study of the Nakano Prison Main Gate Conservation Movement

Shichi Mike Lan: Commemorating the Second World War and the Bereaved Families in Taiwan

Watanabe Yosuke: From victimhood to empathy: Peace activism in Japan and Malaysia

Closing remarks (15:45-16:00): Edward Vickers (Kyushu University)

Closed workshop / discussion (on follow-up publications - for symposium presenters only) (16:10-16:50)

For more information, please contact Edward Vickers