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“Pasts that Bind: Memory, Institutions, and the Domestic Politics of South Korea-Japan Reconciliation” by Eun A Jo

January 26, 2022 @ 9:00 am 10:00 am JST

Registration required!

Authors: Eun A Jo (Cornell)

Abstract: Why and how does collective memory shape politics in the domestic and international spheres? I argue that social actors mobilize collective memory—an intersubjective understanding of the past—to meet their present needs, and by way of contestation in the public sphere, continually reshape it. I further argue that the strategies societal actors adopt during episodes of mnemonic contestation can shape the “official” narrative as well as the shared context in which actors compete for narrative dominance. In this paper, I propose three such mnemonic strategies: (1) framing—negotiating how the past is to be interpreted; (2) accrediting—defining which narrators are authorized to speak about the past; and (3) binding—establishing the narrative bounds by which narrators are assessed. Using this framework, I reassess the failure of South Korea-Japan reconciliation and find that it has as much to do with the mobilization and evolution of colonial memory in South Korea over the course of its democratization as Japanese impenitence. Anti-Japanese memory is a product of continued domestic political contestation about how South Korea remembers and identifies itself.

Discussants: Thomas Berger (Boston University), Risa Kitagawa (Northeastern), and Atsushi Tago (Waseda).

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