3550 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90089

This talk aims to move beyond our reiterative framework of the immediate period of Japan’s defeat in World War II – shifting away from an emphasis on the Japanese populace’s “embrace of defeat” – and instead contemplating defeat as also encompassing frenetic flashpoints throughout the collapsing empire and surrounding Pacific islands. Some defeated Japanese soldiers were filled with disgust and anger at their superior officers for their brutal treatment on the battlefield and sought revenge on the repatriation ships back to Japan by either throwing them overboard or beating them up on the ship. Common, too, were lynchings in the prisoner of war camps where Okinawans, Koreans and Japanese were separated from each other but still at times explosive feuds erupted, with Okinawans or Koreans beating up the Japanese. It was also a time of revolts; one in the heart of the Japanese archipelago in Akita prefecture involving Chinese forced laborers, with another occurring on Mili Atoll in the Marshall islands led by Korean and Marshallese forced laborers. By focusing on revenge, revolt, and the anger and rage throughout the Pacific region we can imagine defeat as offering an opportunity to the disenfranchised to remake the world, to overthrow the hierarchy, with their own sense of justice and retribution, even if these worlds were fleeting and unsustainable.


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Kirsten Ziomek is an associate professor of history and director of Asian Studies at Adelphi University in New York. Her research focuses on the Japanese empire, colonial subjects, indigenous people, visual culture and imagery, the Asia-Pacific War and comparative imperialisms.

Her articles have appeared in the Journal of Asian Studies and Critical Asian Studies and her first book, Lost Histories: Recovering the Lives of Japan’s Colonial Peoples was published in 2019 by Harvard University Asia Center. Her current book project reimagines the Asia-Pacific War by focusing on the experiences of colonial and Indigenous people throughout the Pacific region- some who fought for the Japanese military- others who were coerced into providing forced labor, resources or sex.  A fellowship from the National Endowment for Humanities and Japan US Friendship commission is supporting her research leave during 2023-2024.


This event is presented by the Shinso Ito Center for Japanese Religions and Culture and co-sponsored by the East Asian Studies Center


Image- 18 March 1945 Caption: "Korean members of a group that revolted against Jap slavery are shown here aboard an American LCI after having been stripped in search of concealed weapons." 

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  • Arone Saldana
  • Junjiro Nakatomi

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