SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

Adjudicating Victory in Postwar East Asia: the spectacle of war crimes and the theatre of justice

IMG - 20170111 - Barak Kushner
Dr Barak Kushner (University of Cambridge)

Date: 18 January 2017Time: 5:05 PM

Finishes: 18 January 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Seminar


War is not about respecting boundaries but about breaking them. The end of war, by contrast, centers on re-establishing those borders though usually in very different physical locations. Such dislocation can often serve to mask what really happened in the twilight between the end of war and the postwar because our assumptions are no longer valid. Precisely how war crimes trials would play out in East Asia and in what manner the Japanese imperial forces and the larger elements of all segments of society would deal with these changes was far from clarified after the announcement of the Potsdam Declaration in July 1945. China’s moves to pursue Japanese war criminals, as well as to charge Chinese collaborators or suspected traitors, offered a means to resolve the upturned former imperial hierarchies, dealing with grudges and finding legal solace to atone for committed atrocities. The manner in which Japan responded was equally critical and both sides pitted their legal sagacity and juridical ability against one another to demonstrate the righteousness of their own causes. Importantly, as well, both sides had already been preparing for such eventualities prior to the actual defeat.

Speaker Biography

Barak Kushner is Reader in modern Japanese history in the Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge and has a PhD in History from Princeton University. He has written three books: Men to Devils, Devils to Men: Japanese War Crimes and Chinese Justice (Harvard University Press, 2015), (Winner of the American Historical Association's 2016 John K. Fairbank Prize); Slurp! A culinary and social history of ramen - Japan's favorite noodle soup (Brill, 2012), (awarded the 2013 Sophie Coe Prize for Food History); and The Thought War - Japanese Imperial Propaganda (Hawaii 2006). He has a translation that examines the intersection of media, history and politics entitled Media, Propaganda and Politics in 20th-Century Japan and co-edited a volume about Japan's lost decades with former Asahi Shimbun editor-in-chief, Funabashi Yoichi, entitled Examining Japan's Lost Decades (Routledge 2015). As a scholar he has written on wartime Japanese and Chinese propaganda, Japanese media, Sino-Japanese relations, humor, food history, BC class war crimes, and the Cold War. In March 2013 he launched a 5-year European Research Council funded project, “The Dissolution of the Japanese Empire and the Struggle for Legitimacy in Postwar East Asia, 1945–1965.” The project recently produced the volume Barak Kushner and Sherzod Muminov, eds., The Dismantling of Japan's Empire in East Asia: Deimperialization, Postwar Legitimation and Imperial Afterlife, (Routledge 2017). Previously, Kushner worked in the US Department of State as a political officer in East Asian affairs and taught Chinese and Japanese history at Davidson College in North Carolina, USA. Currently, he is working on a monograph concerning postwar East Asian history, and further research on war crimes in East Asia, tentatively titled The Construction of Justice in East Asia and the Search for Legitimacy.

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