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WAYS OF FORGETTING, WAYS OF REMEMBERING by John W. Dower Kirkus Star

WAYS OF FORGETTING, WAYS OF REMEMBERING

Japan in the Modern World

By John W. Dower

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59558-618-6
Publisher: New Press

A series of astute academic essays on the forging of postwar Japan.

The winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and Bancroft Prize, Dower (History Emeritus/MIT; Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq, 2010, etc.) is comfortable going against the grain. He was key to bringing back into print the significant work of forgotten Canadian historian E.H. Norman, whose deep research into the Meiji state revealed the authoritarian, feudal legacies that later helped drag Japan into imperial militarism, misery and defeat. In his essay on Norman, Dower shows how this approach contrasted with the postwar modernization theorists then in vogue, who held that Japan’s militarism was essentially an aberration and hoped to put a positive spin on accomplishments since the Meiji era. Dower was told in 1970, during his time as a student, that his interest in the postwar occupation of Japan was “too recent to be history,” foreshadowing some of the obfuscation he would later encounter. Other essays here, which appeared between 1993 and 2000, are fascinating explorations into Japanese racial theories, intense militaristic and racial propaganda, pervasive sense of “victim consciousness” and eruptions of reactionary language and a faulty sense of responsibility. “The Bombed” is a riveting analysis of the effects of the atomic bombs on the Japanese psyche. Thanks to the collusion of the U.S. government, which aimed for an easy occupation of the country, the Japanese were censored from venting expressions of outrage and grief over their government's rampant militarism and the end-of-war atomic apocalypse. Dower explores the dual role of science as both destroyer and postwar miracle worker, a lesson to be gleaned by both America and postwar Japan in terms of economic growth and military technology.

Scrupulously researched and bravely presented scholarship.