Geopolitics of memory: Remembering the "Comfort Women"

Authors: Orhon Myadar*, University of Arizona, School of Geography and Development, Ronald Davidson, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, California State University, Northridge
Topics: Population Geography, Urban Geography, Gender
Keywords: "comfort women", symbolic landscapes, memorial sites, memory
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Washington 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


On October 2nd of 2018, the city of Osaka, Japan formally ended its 60-year “sister city” relationship with San Francisco, California. What compelled Osaka’s mayor, Hirofumi Yoshimura, to resort to this rather dramatic decision was the erection of a statue in San Francisco the year before. The statue in question is dedicated to the thousands of women and girls who were subjected to sexual slavery by the Imperial Army of Japan during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. The seemingly innocuous statue has become a material and embodied manifestation of the tensions stemming from competing claims for memory, truth-seeking and reconciliation. It has also become a symbol of broader geopolitical struggles over legitimacy and national identity. Situating this tension between the two cities in a broader geopolitical context, this paper examines the complex processes of remembering the past, negotiating its relevance in the present and laying foundations for future narratives as they pertain to different actors.

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