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Journal of World History 13.2 (2002) 522-525

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Book Review

Censoring History:
Citizenship and Memory in Japan, Germany, and the United States

Censoring History: Citizenship and Memory in Japan, Germany, and the United States. Edited by LAURA HEIN AND MARK SELDEN. Armonk, NY: Sharpe, 2000. Pp. 287. $59.59 (cloth); $24.95 (paper).

As the human race marches into the new millennium, the past seems to loom larger than ever. The end of the Cold War has reopened many old wounds, often along ethnic lines. Newly democratized countries have to confront the old regime. Conflicting visions of war and internal strife not only create problems inside a nation-state, but also increasingly affect the state of affairs among them. Governments are pressured to make apologies for past wrongs, while private companies are sued over alleged wartime abuses. How textbooks portray the past has become a matter of major importance.

On the heel of their book Living with the Bomb, which addresses Japanese and American efforts to cope with the atomic blasts at the end of the Second World War in Asia, historian Laura Hein and sociologist Mark Selden team together to bring out another timely book. It began largely as a response to the ongoing controversies over textbook depiction of World War II that have been brewing since the early 1980s in Japan and have picked up steam again recently. Seven of the ten essays have been published as "Textbook Nationalism, Citizenship, and War" in a special issue of the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars 30, 1 (April-June 1998). Although the primary emphasis of the book is on Japan, several essays deal with Germany and the United States as well as international interactions.

In the introduction, Hein and Selden place their collective endeavor in a broad perspective and address two central questions: first, the relationship between citizens and the state; second, a nation's conduct [End Page 522] in war and its implications for foreign relations. The editors state the common conviction underlying all essays that education is "the essential process by which a democratic polity is created and sustained." In other words, "education should teach students how to judge for themselves when to support and when to oppose the policies of their own states." They distinguish theirs from alternative visions of education: for competition in the global marketplace, for conformity to official versions of homogeneity, and for national security goals.

Gavan McCormack offers a scathing critique of the recent surge of popular nationalistic historiography in Japan, self-designated as "Liberalist Views of History," which has been spearheaded by University of Tokyo professor Fujioka Nobukatsu and his outspoken supporters. McCormack sees this trend as "firmly rooted in the fabric of postwar Japanese nationalism, revised and reformulated to accept [sic. adapt] to the changed circumstances of the post-Cold War period and Japan's emergence as a global economic superpower with aspirations to become a superpower tout court." He draws analogies with the "'politics of resentment' that spreads across the industrial world as the urban masses find themselves becoming victims of anonymous global forces." He does note, however, that in the Japanese case the fear of the loss of state authority seems to play a more prominent role in the neo-conservatives' rhetoric. Shifting to Japanese cinema, Aaron Gerow also sees evidence of "new neonationalistic revisionism," concluding that "the new right-wing revisionism has become part of the flow of signifiers that constitutes consumer culture" in Japan. Nozaki Yoshiko and Inokuchi Hiromitsu provide a sympathetic account of the decades-long effort by historian-educator Ienaga Saburo to challenge the state authority in censoring textbook contents in Japan. These essays thus provide a well-informed, if incomplete, analysis of the recent developments in Japan.

Most discussions of the controversies surrounding World War II history have contrasted Japan with Germany, a point indirectly confirmed by the essay of Yasemin Nuhoglu Soysal. She gives considerable credit to German achievements in textbooks, which promote not only national but also increasingly transnational identities and responsibilities. In another essay on...


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