Synopses & Reviews
Remembering and reconstructing the past inevitably involves forgetting—and nowhere more so than in the complex relationship between the United States and Japan since the end of World War II. In this provocative and probing series of essays, John W. Dower—one of our leading historians of postwar Japan and author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning Embracing Defeat
—explores the uses and abuses to which this history has been subjected and, with deliberation and insight, affirms the urgent need for scholars to ask the questions that are not being asked.
Taking as a starting point the work of E.H. Norman, the unjustly neglected historian of prewar Japan, Ways of Forgetting, Ways of Remembering sets out both to challenge historiographical orthodoxy and reveal the configurations of power inherent in scholarly and popular discourse in Japan and America. Dowers fascination with capturing popular experience leads to sources as far ranging as textiles adorned with wartime propaganda and the satirical cartoon panels that decorate traditional karuta playing cards. Dower, who is rightly known as one of the most perceptive critics of American foreign policy, also offers a blistering critique of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the misuse of postwar Japan as an example of success.
Ways of Forgetting, Ways of Remembering is a profound look at American and Japanese perceptions—past and present—of key moments in their shared history. An incisive investigation of the problems of public history and its role in a modern democracy, these essays are essential reading for anyone interested in postwar U.S.-Japan relations, as well as the broader discipline of history.
"No historian writes with more authority than this leading U.S. historian of modern Japan. MIT professor Dower's new work brings together a number of his essays written between 1993 and 2007 (only one earlier), and they show him at the top of his form. Most deal with Japan since WWII, although Dower (a Pulitzer winner for Embracing Defeat) invokes much earlier history. He's at his best, and unabashedly critical, when analyzing national hypocrisy and the misuses of history and memory, American as well as Japanese. His topics include Japanese racism along with the enthusiasm with which Japan went to war. He shows, through analyses of such cultural products as comics, playing cards, art, and clothing, how the Japanese themselves could ridicule as well as praise their leaders even in the midst of warfare's horrors and atomic catastrophe. Searing essays on Hiroshima round out the volume. Dower also tries to apply his knowledge to current policy issues, especially American ease in going to war. On slippery ground here, he walks it as deftly as anyone else. A set of serious, cautionary reflections from a superb historian. Illus. Agent: Georges Borchardt." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Ways of Forgetting
looks at the key moments in the relationship between two national powers focusing on Japanese perceptions of the United States: how the Japanese saw Hiroshima, the American occupation, and the changes in their own lives. We also catch a glimpse of Japanese attitudes toward their own war crimes. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian John Dower offers blistering comments on Bushs attempts to justify the invasion of Iraq by citing Dowers own work on the U.S. occupation of Japan.
The book is a fascinating and probing look at the ways in which we remember the tangled history between the United States and Japan and how it is still invoked today.
About the Author
John W. Dower is Professor Emeritus of History at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His interests lie in modern Japanese history and U.S.-Japan relations. He is the author of several books, including War Without Mercy and Embracing Defeat, which was the recipient of numerous honors, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Bancroft Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in History, and the L.L. Winship/PEN New England Prize. He lives in Boston.