What is the status of the past? In other words what is the point, if there is one, of studying history? In the end or even in the moment does it matter? If it does, how and why does it matter? These are big, basic questions we will be asking as we study the ways in which WWII is remembered, or forgotten, in Japan. Like all historians we will, of course, be interested in getting the facts of the past right, but as we will quickly learn, much of the interesting work starts once the facts are known. This suggests that history is by its very nature much more than a detective story, that there may be inevitable political and ethical aspects to the study and writing of history. We will take on these huge issues at the level of both theory, and everyday life, as a way to deepen our senses and alert us to the presence of the past in present politics, identities, and even embedded in our everyday language.
Grading is based on participation, in-class writing, two papers, a group project, and an individual assignment exploring topics for further research beyond this class. There will be no in-class mid-term or final.