In The Unpredictability of the Past, an international group of historians examines how collective memories of the Asia-Pacific War continue to affect relations among China, Japan, and the United States. The contributors are primarily concerned with the history of international relations broadly conceived to encompass not only governments but also nongovernmental groups and organizations that influence the interactions of peoples across the Pacific. Taken together, the essays provide a rich, multifaceted analysis of how the dynamic interplay between past and present is manifest in policymaking, popular culture, public commemorations, and other arenas.
The contributors interpret mass media sources, museum displays, monuments, film, and literature, as well as the archival sources traditionally used by historians. They explore how American ideas about Japanese history shaped U.S. occupation policy following Japan's surrender in 1945, and how memories of the Asia-Pacific War influenced Washington and Tokyo policymakers' reactions to the postwar rise of Soviet power. They investigate topics from the resurgence of Pearl Harbor images in the U.S. media in the decade before September 11, 2001, to the role of Chinese war museums both within China and in Chinese-Japanese relations, and from the controversy over the Smithsonian Institution's Enola Gay exhibit to Japanese tourists' reactions to the USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor. One contributor traces how a narrative commemorating African Americans' military service during World War II eclipsed the history of their significant early-twentieth-century appreciation of Japan as an ally in the fight against white supremacy. Another looks at the growing recognition and acknowledgment in both the United States and Japan of the Chinese dimension of World War II. By focusing on how memories of the Asia-Pacific War have been contested, imposed, resisted, distorted, and revised, The Unpredictability of the Past demonstrates the crucial role that interpretations of the past play in the present.Contributors. Marc Gallicchio, Waldo Heinrichs, Haruo Iguchi, Xiaohua Ma, Frank Ninkovich, Emily S. Rosenberg, Takuya Sasaki, Yujin Yaguchi, Daqing Yang