2019: Reflections - Japan and USA

Quelle:  The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 17 | Issue 2 | Number 2 | Jan 15, 2019
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Japan Focus.

Japan and the United States: Reflections on War, Empire, Race and Culture

John W. Dower in Conversation with Patrick Lawrence

The groundbreaking historian of Japan talks about the challenges of scholarship during rapidly changing times.
Introduction by Patrick Lawrence

John Dower, who is now emeritus professor of Japanese history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was an essential influence during my years as a correspondent in Japan. I (and I know numerous others) considered him a giant in his field, one of the few scholars who were required reading for anyone with a serious commitment to covering a nation notorious for its opacity, its complex history, and the ideological shroud Americans draped over it during the Cold War decades. Dower held fast against that corruption of scholarship in everything he wrote over a career that now spans five decades.

I rank Dower with the late Chalmers Johnson and Herbert Bix as one of the great Asia scholars of his generation. His subject was never Japan so much as questions of war, race, self-and-other, and the perspectives of others as these emerged during the Pacific War. Dower’s first masterpiece, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War, was published in 1986 and lifted the lid on the astonishingly raw racism that infused American war propaganda just as much as it did Japan’s.

The book also signaled Dower’s future trajectory. He has never lost his habit of exploring popular culture, media imagery, and the like to get at history’s true core. Nor has he ever ceased insisting on the need to see from the perspectives of those considered “others.” This culminated in Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. An account of the Occupation years as the Japanese experienced them and another of Dower’s masterpieces, it won a Pulitzer Prize when it was published in 1999.

Like Johnson, Dower eventually became one of those scholars who apply themselves to questions beyond their scholarly specialties. In Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11, Iraq (2010), Dower makes superb use of his many years of trans–Pacific explorations on a global scale. In 2017 he published The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, a title that requires no explanation.

I had wanted to interview Dower for years as part of a series of extended Q&A exchanges I have conducted over the course of many years. When we finally met in the dining room of a Boston hotel, late in 2017, the occasion was even more exceptional than I had anticipated. There at the table with Dower sat Herb Bix, whose Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan (2000) was another groundbreaking masterwork (and another Pulitzer winner). Anyone who knows the Asia scene will understand what an extraordinary moment this was.

Bix’s interjections during our exchange are marked. As always, I thank Michael Conway Garofalo for his conscientious work transcribing the audio recording.

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