In Transgenerational Remembrance, Jessica Nakamura investigates the role of artistic production in the commemoration and memorialization of the Asia-Pacific War (1931–1945) in Japan since 1989. During this time, survivors of Japanese aggression and imperialism, previously silent about their experiences, have sparked contentious public debates about the form and content of war memories.
The book opens with an analysis of the performance of space at Yasukuni Shinto Shrine, which continues to promote an anachronistic veneration of the war. After identifying the centrality of performance in long-standing dominant narratives, Transgenerational Remembrance offers close readings of artistic performances that tackle subject matter largely obscured before 1989: the kamikaze pilot, Japanese imperialism, comfort women, the Battle of Okinawa, and Japanese American internment. These case studies range from Hirata Oriza’s play series about Japanese colonial settlers in Korea and Shimada Yoshiko’s durational performance about comfort women to Kondo Aisuke’s videos and gallery installations about Japanese American internment.
Working from theoretical frameworks of haunting and ethics, Nakamura develops an analytical lens based on the Noh theater ghost. Noh emphasizes the agency of the ghost and the dialogue between the dead and the living. Integrating her Noh-inflected analysis into ethical and transnational feminist queries, Nakamura shows that performances move remembrance beyond current evidentiary and historiographical debates.