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Anthropology of Colonialism and War under Imperial Japan

Kyung-Soo Chun, Seoul National University

Thursday, February 7, 2013 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Odegaard Library, Room 220

The introduction of Western anthropology’s debate over colonialism into Japanese anthropolo-gy has not been an issue. However, the application of it to anthropology in Japan has forcibly limited the understanding of Japanese anthropology during imperial eras, which was formed around the dual axes of colonialism and war, from only the perspective of colonialism. Although claiming to discuss the same subject, the question of what perspective is being applied and on what concepts it is based has meant that the process and results of interpreting Japanese history is different. Curses and condemnation demanding repentance and reflection are only emotional war. This sort of simplifying dichotomy cannot nourish a consciousness or reinterpretation of history. It works only as a poison. The dead cannot speak. However, a glossalia through sham-ans is possible. History without lies is divided up into pieces through silence, but work of con-necting the scattered pieces into a single narrative continues in the memories we all carry. The question of how well the narrative is formed rests on the capacity of memory. Although the dead cannot speak, those who die still silent can borrow the lips of a shaman to tell their story. The living can make their memory for them. It is not a denunciation of having died without tell-ing this story, but the efforts of the living built on the testimonies of the dead join together to be reformed into memory. I see this as ethnographic work relevant for scholarship. Before passing moral judgments on anthropologists involved in Japan’s wars of invasion, we face the task of rigorous analysis. Whatever the form reflecting its time, the status of war criminals (cf. Ishida Eiichiro's warning) is given to anthropologists who participated in the war, and we require jus-tice in accordance with the details and extent of the war crime. In this process, we can create a set of ethical guidelines for ourselves and future anthropologists.

Dr. Chun is Professor of Department of Anthropology at Seoul National University, and his research interests include theory of culture and ecological anthropology in Central Asia, Latin America, Vietnam, Okinawa, and South Korea.

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