After a one-year sabbatical, spent mostly in Japan and Taiwan, I am back on campus at Lafayette College, in Easton, PA. Rm. 309 Ramer History House.
The workshop “Visualizing War, Visualizing Fascism” will be held at Lafayette College, at the Kirby Hall of Civil Rights, on Monday, November 11th, in the auditorium facing the front entrance (room 104). We will begin at 4:10pm and end at 6:30pm.
Film and Photography in Germany and Japan
A purely technological history of photography and film would explain why the second World War was recorded so copiously and vividly in contrast to earlier conflicts, but the development of handheld cameras (like the Leica created in 1925), advances in film technology (including sound), and better means of transmitting images for publication via wire do not explain how war came to be seen either during the conflict or in retrospect. This workshop addresses some the cultural complexities of visualizing war in Germany, Italy, and Japan during the 1930s and 1940s, raising the political, aesthetic and ethical quandaries posed by trying to see combat and glory, death and destruction contemporaneously and retrospectively.
There are two quandaries central to this workshop: the invisible nature of that which is being visualized and the particular slipperiness of interpreting visual materials. The workshop’s title alludes to a central paradox in visualization. Since war cannot be seen in its totality and memory concerns the invisible past, the visualization of war and memory concerns something which, in one sense, cannot be seen at all. We are talking about the visualization of the invisible. One issue of the workshop will therefore necessarily be the difference between “visualizing” and “seeing.” A second issue will be the question of subjectivity, i.e. who visualizes the violence and who reenvisions it retrospectively. On the one hand, attention must be paid to the strategies adopted and deployed by the fascist states themselves to propagate war and make it meaningful. On the other hand, state representations can be subverted when seen by the “wrong” people, the unintended viewer or someone with a different perspective, politically or chronologically. The workshop will therefore consider the contingent relationship between any particular political or ethical stance and any particular aesthetic style.
Although the representational repertoire through which World War II has been addressed includes painting, drama, poetry, dance, monuments, commemorations, museums, and the whole range of practices involved in memorializing and memory work, this workshop will focus on film and photography, suggesting that the camera’s particular efficacy during this particular war is worth examining. Representations made with the camera, whether the still presences of photography or the moving images of film, were and are potent tools for propagating, resisting, and understanding that era of violence.
From July 30 to August 16 Lafayette Students visited various cities in China and Korea as part of an interim course to study political, cultural, migratory, and historical interconnections in Northeast Asia. Luckily, the teachers for the course allowed me to tag along.
These photos are from the bridge that connects Dandong, China to Sinuiju, DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). One of the bridges carries freight and passengers between the two countries, and the other has been left damaged as a reminder of the American bombing campaigns of the war known as the “Korean War” (1950-53) in the United States.
The un-reconstructed bridge was built by the Japanese after the “protectorate” was established in 1905. This bridge was the subject of many a Japanese publicity photo advertising the modernity of the colonial regime. This signboard explains this bridge as an “engineering marvel” because of the horizontal revolving beam that allowed a section of the bridge to become perpendicular to the rest of the bridge to allow the passage of tall ships. According to this sign, the bridge was built in 1908.
Dear Lafayette Campus Community:
On March 11, Japan’s northeast coast was devastated by a tsunami accompanied by a series of earthquakes. Over a thousand are presumed dead and many more homeless. Reconstruction and rescue efforts, as well as the work of restoring Japan’s transportation, communication, and power grids, are going to be expensive and difficult. If members of the campus community would like to make contributions to help the Japanese, we know that such generosity would be greatly appreciated.
The Red Cross
the Japan Society
are all reputable organizations that will deliver aid where it is needed.
Thanks for your time and attention,
The Lafayette College Asian Studies Advisory Committee and Teaching Faculty
Last July, 2010, in Tokyo for research at the archives of the former Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications, now called “Tei-park,” National Diet Library, and the used book stores of Jinbocho to hunt for postcards from imperial Japan. It was a very productive two weeks. And a great time to catch up with friends and colleagues.
Best part of Parliament, at least for me.
A functional building, that Diet Library.
An interesting way to say good-bye to PM Aso.
View from Hejiribashi, between Ochanomizu station and my hotel room nearby.
Typical Jinbocho scene. Old Book Town.
Taking the train south to visit and old friend near Kamakura
Zushi beach near Kamakura
Standing bar/restaurant near Nakano Station, Tokyo
Nakano Station, Tokyo shopping and entertainment, early evening
I visited the Brookfield Zoo two days ago with my daughter and mother, just outside of Chicago. The rampant commercialism did not surprise me, I suppose without corporate buy-ins and sponsorship, the zoo could not maintain itself. But there were two very pleasant surprises: 1) the incorporation of Native American nomenclature and local knowledge into exhibits of North American animals:
and 2) the Mbuti-centered Rain Forest area.