It is with great pleasure that WGSI congratulate Dr. Lisa Yoneyama for winning the 2018 Association for Asian American Studies Award for Best Book for Humanities and Cultural Studies (Literary Studies) for Cold War Ruins: Transpacific Critique of American Justice and Japanese War Crimes.
In their rationale for recommending her book for the award, the subcommittee wrote:
Yoneyama’s Cold War Ruins mounts a transnational analysis of the logics of post-Cold War “redress culture” that implicates not only Japanese war atrocities but also the “Americanization” of justice in the decades following World War II. The postwar global struggle for ideological ascendancy is often imagined as a cold war contest between the United States’ democracy and the former Soviet Union’s communism. Yet, as Yoneyama shows, the specter of Japan’s military defeat and the claims for justice issuing in its wake have always played a crucial part in these struggles. Cold War Ruins reveals the extent to which calls for reparation, as these motions travel back and forth between Asia and North America, are interrupted, curtailed, divergent, or divested of juridical meaning. These failures do not stem from any particular justice claim’s lack of merit; indeed, the open-ended promise and premise of justice, the book shows us, is a site of ongoing politicization. Rather, they result from a complex web of U.S. and Japanese imperialisms during and after the war that has clouded the “ability to decisively affect the postbelligerency drawing of lines between the aggrieved and the aggressors, the redressable and the unredressable, the forgiven and the unforgiven” (ix).
To lay bare redress culture’s complications, Yoneyama assembles a broad range of texts that spans the Pacific. They run the gamut from literature and visual art to legal tracts, museum exhibits, media reports, and other genres. She deftly moves between Japanese-language and English-language sources in analyses that refuse the critique of U.S. empire ever to overshadow the atrocities of Japanese empire. Taken together, the chapters in Cold War Ruins prompt us to grapple with some tough questions. For instance, how do narratives of the Japanese army’s enslavement of thousands of colonial subject women—mostly Korean, Chinese, and Filipino—into sexual labor push up against history’s more visible event of the United States’ atomic attack on Japanese civilians? How does the United States’ continued military presence in Okinawa form a tarnished backdrop against which some U.S. municipalities have endorsed public monuments to Korean survivors of Japanese wartime trafficking? Redress seekers across national borders find themselves negotiating a gauntlet of overlapping human rights abuses.
Cold War Ruins presents a stunningly masterful engagement with the most pressing concerns in the fields of Asian American studies and Asian studies/area studies today. In recent years, there has been much discussion in both fields about the necessity for dialogue and engagement across these disciplinary divides. Cold War Ruins exemplifies the very best this cross-fertilization can offer.
Lisa will be honored at the 2018 Awards Reception on the evening of Friday, March 30, 2018 at the San Francisco Westin St. Francis Hotel.