On Modeling

Last week a couple of students took me to task for not having a clearer thesis statement on a draft I shared with them for an invited essay I am writing for Japan Focus.   Such critiques are a very good sign!  As I move forward with revisions to this 20-page single-spaced monster of a review essay (reviewing one film about the Rape of Nanking is feasible; reviewing four is indicative of masochistic tendencies), I will be sharing an updated draft with them.  If it’s accepted by April 25, I will have a little respite and then they will see what Laura Hein at Northwestern University has to say about my thesis and my review of the literature.  If it’s good enough for Dr. Hein and Mark Selden, hopefully it is good enough for them.

Pulling together something as immense as a historiography of the Nanking Massacre would take a whole year, but perhaps it would be a worthwhile exercise for a student.  It would be particularly interesting to see how an undergraduate history major at PLU (perhaps one in my classes?) would be able to outsleuth Iris Chang, who was a dynamite and disciplined writer, but who — as we can see in her papers — ignored vast swaths of past writing about Nanking, convincing herself (and then Viking Press) that she had discovered the topic altogether and was recuperating it fully.


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Iris Chang Speaks

This is a slightly stilted and scripted rendering, but it is a rather interesting artifact from a 2003 conference and “mock trial” in San Francisco about the role of Emperor Hirohito in the spread of Japanese war crimes in the 1930s and 1940s.  At 3:00, the author reprises her critical view of Japanese culture, and ends with assertions about the Emperor’s aims.

This is a longer excerpt from “Iris Chang: The Rape of Nanking,” a drama-documentary by a Canadian pair of directors not very long ago.

And if all this massacre info has you down (or you question the need for possibly sappy lyrics in the song in the previous excerpt celebrating Iris Chang’s life), I can empathize.  This short pentatonic meditation was improvised the night after I got back from communing with the Iris Chang Papers in the Bay Area in October 2009, and is played with Chang in mind.  The lack of a verbal component in the cello music, and the resemblance of the harmonies to Ernst Bloch’s more austere Oregon coastal solo cello harmonies, veer us away from the sap and, I hope, toward reflection.

Additional Resources:

David Askew, “New Research on the Nanking Massacre,” Japan Focus (date unknown…)

Adam Cathcart, “Iris Chang and the Politics of Emotional Authenticity,” Sinologistical Violoncellist, 25 October 2009.

Adam Cathcart, “Impressions of the Iris Chang Papers,” Sinologistical Violoncellist, 24 October 2009.

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Sheldon Harris Speaks

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More Bay Area Action: War Memory Conference at Berkeley

There is nothing quite like the Bay Area, greater San Francisco, for scholarship and historical sources on the Second World War.  To wit, this upcoming conference at UC Berkeley:

Formation and Reformation of War Memory Inside and Outside Japan:

Reconsidering “Memory” as a Critical Tool


Thursday, March 3, 2:30 pm – 5:30 pm

Location: IEAS Conference Room | Institute of East Asian Studies (2223 Fulton, 6th Floor)

Memory has been a critical term for criticism and cultural studies/postcolonialism the past twenty years.  Some memory has transgressed borders inciting controversy between nations and peoples, while others remain insulated in their places of origin.  Why has this happened?  These days, history is often conflated with memory, though these two related phenomena are far from synonymous.  At centers of memory, such as museums and monuments, personal memoirs and other documents inform the production of history.  This trend is as if history almost takes over memory in the name of history.  Further, the construction of popular memory often results from the selective amalgamation of a number of diverse histories.  In this context, this workshop pays attention to the ongoing trend at places of memory and reconsiders possibilities of “memory” as a recalcitrant agency to seamless historical orchestration.


Mitsuhiro Fujimaki, Center for Global Studies, University of Shizuoka

On Visibility of National Trauma at Pearl Harbor: Film Representation of Sinking Vessels and Bombs at the New Visitor Center Museum

Takahito Sawada, Center for Global Studies, University of Shizuoka

A Frontline for War Memory in Northern Australia : Expanding Traumatic Surveillance over Imaginary Enemies and Transforming National History after the Pacific War.

Charles Burress, Journalist

Can the Messenger Be Trusted? The Press and East Asia ’s Memory Wars.

Kerry Shannon, Asian Studies, University of California , Berkeley , Discussant


*This event is co-sponsored by the Center for Global Studies, University of Shizuoka. Free and open to the public.


Adam Cathcart

Department of History

25 February 2011

Dear Wang Center Staff,

This letter of recommendation is for Audrey Lewis, an excellent student whom I got to know during the course of Fall 2010 as part of our Gateway Program in Chengdu.  For me, Audrey stands out as an extraordinary ambassador with an ebullient attitude, whip-like intelligence, ability to get along and smile under any circumstances, and her relaxed but firm method of accomplishing tasks.  I can’t imagine a better or more effective student advocate for Wang Center programs than Audrey.

Audrey really took to her experiences in China like a fish in water; she rarely sequestered herself in the dorm in Chengdu, and took full advantage of the city’s many cultural opportunities.  She worked hard at her Chinese language classes and was never afraid to bring up a new word she had learned, share her flash cards, or (and I think this is really quite important) make a mistake.  Audrey has a great egalitarian outlook: she wants to learn from others, and also to share what she knows.  Notably, in addition to meeting and making Chinese and Tibetan friends wherever she went, Audrey made an effort to reach out to students from other institutions who were affiliated with our PLU program.  I think a great deal of the excellent group cohesion we had last semester in Chengdu can be traced directly back to Audrey.  And when she had a weekend off in late October, Audrey led several group members on a trip back to Xi’an, indicating her confidence as an independent traveler in China.  As an ambassador for PLU, Audrey has already done a great deal.

Although “grace under pressure” is not among the listed requisite skills to be a Sojurner Advocate, no recommendation of mine for Audrey would be complete without mentioning the best instance of her work as a true team player.  When her friend Claire Eisenberg developed some discomfort, Audrey navigated through a couple of Chengdu clinics; we ultimately ended up bringing Claire to the hospital where some eight hours later, she had surgery.  Under these rather stressful circumstances which included a massive garble of medical terminology flying in Chinese, phone calls to and from stressed-out parents, and her friend’s imminent surgery, Audrey remained totally calm, always within herself, the epitome of a selfless team player whose interest was in the well being of the people around her.  I was and remain incredibly impressed by how she conducted herself at that time, and the help she gave me and Claire under some trying circumstances, and will certainly remember (and be grateful) for that for many, many years to come.  The kind of maturity Audrey displayed in more than one medical facility in Chengdu, in combination with the ability to help others, is really rather rare for someone of her age.

Finally, Audrey is a highly organized individual who thoroughly understands our PLU organizational culture and would work wonders as an energized advocate for the mission and programs of the Wang Center for Global Education.  She has my highest possible recommendation.



Adam Cathcart, Ph.D.

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Manchukuo in English-Language Reportage and Film

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Holocaust Conference at PLU

Robert Ericksen, Professor of Holocaust Studies at Pacific Lutheran University, talks about students and scholars of the Holocaust:

More information about the March 17-19 conference, and links to the PLU Holocaust Studies program (a program which includes an impressive number of student research opportunities) is available on the program website.

For ways that scholars at Pacific Lutheran have in the past done comparisons of Nazi and Japanese war crimes, this short entry on Sinologistical Violoncellist provides at least an entry point.

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Germ Warfare and Panda Diplomacy in Tokyo: Unit 731 Excavations

Unit 731, the bacteriological warfare research wing of the Kanto Army in Manchuria, has been discussed in Japan with varying degrees of postwar intensity, but this discovery in Tokyo last week (via the Guardian) seems poised to bring the activities — and the difficult subject of history in Sino-Japanese relations — back out into the open.

Some good reads on the topic include this article by Mainichi Shimbun, this analysis from a Taiwan website I plan to revisit more frequently, and, most interestingly, a first-hand account from the hard-hitting culture blog, Tokyo Damage Report, about a walking tour in Tokyo that includes Unit 731 commemoration (with photographs).

Xinhua is currently downplaying this potentially usefully inflamatory story, probably in order to focus on the happy happy China China trope of two Pandas making their way from Chengdu to Tokyo.

Meanwhile, Chinese microbloggers seem to be more focused on the fact that Japanese adult film star Sara Aoi recently opened a Weibo account, quickly garnering one million slavering Chinese fans.  Such is the state of the communications environment in which the Unit 731 revelations find their way into public.

But if you’re looking for more serious fare, Frederick Dickenson in Japan Focus describes the evolution of Unit 731 investigations and awareness in Japan.

In the print world of peer-reviewed journals, see:

Adam Cathcart, “’Against Invisible Enemies’: Japanese Bacteriological Weapons in China’s Cold War, 1949-1952,” Chinese Historical Review Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring 2009): 101-129.

Adam Cathcart and Patricia Nash, “’To Serve Revenge for the Dead’: Chinese Communist Reflections of the War of Resistance in the PRC Foreign Ministry Archive, 1949-1956,”  China Quarterly No. 200 (December 2009).



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