REVIEW COORDINATOR: Taylor Mills
The 'Endangered Voices' of the Taiwanese Victims of Japanese Slavery
Towards Post-Colonial Feminist Ethics of Listening to Trauma
While the question of justice for the victims of sexual slavery institutionalized by the Japanese Imperial Army during the war has generated great communal and scholarly interest, in Taiwan it remains a pressing and unresolved concern what implications this traumatic history has had for the consolidation of the post-colonial and post-authoritarian publics.This is not only because the sexual enslavement of Taiwanese women unfolded at the backdrop of Japan’s colonization of Taiwan, in particular of the indigenous ‘highlander’ groups, but also because the post-war public (and private) narrativization of this history, and any pursuit of justice, were impossible during Chiang Kai-shek’s authoritarian era. Referring to the victims by the Taiwanese term ‘Ama’ (rather than the more common but problematic term ‘comfort women’), I propose that in contemporary Taiwan the traumatic history of female sexual enslavement is of great significance for the contemporary public life because it functions as a kind of an ‘optic’, which reveals and magnifies broader historical dynamics of colonial appropriation, of sexual and epistemic violence against women, and of the marginalization of indigenous and economically disadvantaged groups. Methodologically, the identification of such ‘optic’ draws from cultural theory of psychoanalysis, which links traumatic experience to ‘unspeakability’ and to psychic repression of overwhelming contents, and from sociological and philosophic insights into silencing as a mode of epistemic violence.
Introduction: The Japanese Sexual Slavery System in Taiwan and Trauma Theory
In a 1998 film, A Secret Buried for 50 Years A Secret Buried for 50 Years—The Story of the Taiwanese ‘Comfort Women’, a Taiwanese survivor of the Japanese sexual slavery program during the Pacific War, Shen Chung Li, describes the psychological effects of the violence she endured at the hands of Japanese soldiers as the paradoxical experience of living-through her own death: “my life had ended on [that] day,” she says poignantly.(1) Another survivor, Jung-mei Chaung, speaks of a continuous pain, which has not decreased in severity for fifty years, thus also narrating the effect of her trauma as a devitalization, or withering, of subjectivity. And Kuei-Ying Tsai says, in an accusatory gesture directed at her absent perpetrators, “[o]ur fate was sealed by you,”(2) with which she hints at the difficulties of overcoming effects of stigmatizing sexual violence, not only in the realm of individual psyche, but also in the performance of traditional gendered roles in the Taiwanese post-war society.
These women are known to the contemporary public in Taiwan as ‘Ama’ [阿嬤家], a Taiwanese-Hokkien term for an ‘elderly auntie’. According to the information in the Ama Museum in Taipei, the name ‘Ama’ connotes “endearment [and] respect for women of the older generation.”(3) In the recent years the term has gained popularity as an alternative to the better-known descriptors of the victims of the Japanese sexual enslavement program, ‘comfort women’ and ‘sexual military slaves’,(4) as well as a way of signalling to the Taiwanese public that there is a certain urgency in receiving these testimonies now, given the advanced age of the survivors. And not only that—the sense of exigency in granting public recognition to the survivors’ stories also stems from the fact that for decades many of these women were ostracized in their own communities, and that the avenues for achieving formal justice for the Taiwanese survivors had been exhausted (in 2002 their case was dismissed by the Tokyo District Court, and in 2004 and 2005 the appeals were rejected by the Tokyo High Court and Tokyo Supreme Court, respectively; also, for reasons of Taiwan’s unique geo-political situation, the Taiwanese survivors had had far less success with arguing their case internationally than, for instance, the Korean survivors).(5) In the context of the impending disappearance of these first-hand accounts, I refer to the Amas’ voices metaphorically as ‘endangered’ in order to draw attention to the temporal urgency of listening to Amas as something that needs to happen now, because “the time is running out,”(6) and their physical loss is soon-to-come.
The testimonies of the surviving victims in Faces of Ah-Ma resonate strongly with the key motifs of the cultural and psychoanalytic theory of trauma, such as the initial repression of the traumatic contents, its ‘belated’ (Nachträglich) return to the subject’s life, and the discursive and philosophic link between trauma and death.(7) In a text often considered synonymous with the beginning of the ‘trauma turn’ in contemporary humanities, Cathy Caruth argued that trauma should be seen as not only a psychological condition, but also as a critical and philosophical idiom for the encounter with an extreme, incomprehensible, and consciously unassimilable occurrence.(8) The “unconscious histories,” witnessed by the subjects of trauma, as Caruth argued, constitute “a new kind of historical event,” which is characterized by “individual not-knowing,” and which focuses the testimonial knowledge not on “what [the subjects] know […], but on what they do not fully know in their own traumatic pasts.”(9) In Caruth’s Freudian reading of trauma, the subject sustains a kind of ‘wounding’ which brings about a temporal disjunction in her life in that it produces two distinctive life-phases (‘before’ and ‘after’ trauma). Trauma has to do with the subjective impact of a discrete event of catastrophic proportions for which the subject is utterly unprepared. Caruth writes that “trauma is not locatable in the simple violent or original event in an individual’s past, but rather in the way that its very unassimilated nature—the way it was precisely not known in the first instance—returns to haunt the survivor later on.”(10)
In the case of the trauma of sexual slavery and the Taiwanese Amas, these theoretical insights into the structure of trauma as the haunting effects of an unassimilable violent event, and as a compulsive re-enactment of supressed and unbearable contents, need to be adjusted in two important respects. First, the idiom of a ‘violent event’ (here: the experience of sexual enslavement by Japanese soldiers) needs to be woven more closely into the specific colonial, ethnic and economic context of gender relations in Taiwan before the war. The estimated number of sexually enslaved Taiwanese women by the Japanese military was 2,000, with 58 confirmed survivor cases; the victims included indigenous women from the Taroko, Atayal and Bunan tribes, as well as the Chinese, Hakka, and Min-Nan women, with their shared characteristic of socio-economic vulnerability.(11) The women were recruited involuntarily, placed in the military or privately-run ‘comfort stations’, and, with the exception of the indigenous women in Hualien, trafficked overseas; the official aims of the policy were to maintain soldier discipline, secure public safety and prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among the recruits. The victims suffered continuous sexual violence, as well as mental and physical assaults, torture, starvation, and forced labour.(12) The Amas’ ‘trauma event’ of becoming a sexual slave unfolded at the background of a historical ‘trauma environment’, namely Taiwan’s colonization by Japan (1895-1945), and in particular the decades-long strategies of pacifying and subjugating the indigenous peoples of Taiwan to the Japanese rule. As such, the violent appropriation of the women’s bodies by the military reflects and magnifies already existent and operational colonial logic. That logic rendered the bodies of colonized women ‘thing-like’—appropriable and disposable. Both the historical research on that subject and the survivors’ testimonies emphasize dehumanization and objectification of the women, who in the military documents were referenced as “units of war supplies.”(13) The case of Taiwanese Ama suggests that, on the one hand, there is a need to suture the gap between ‘traumatic event’ and ‘traumatic environment’ in theorizing collective trauma (as part of what critical scholarship has named the ‘de-colonizing’ of trauma theory),(14) and, on the other hand, that it can provide a ‘magnifying-glass’ for the contemporary Taiwanese public to view its colonial legacy, specifically regarding the politically potent narratives of the civilizing and modernizing impact of Japan’s rule, which downplay the violence and dispossession endured by the indigenous populations.
The second point about trauma theory and Japanese military sexual slavery in Taiwan is that the psychoanalytic lens onto the processes of non-assimilation and suppression of the traumatic event within the individual psyche cannot be separated from the political disinterest in, and the communal silencing of, the Amas’ testimonies until 1990s. In Taiwan (as in South Korea) the public invisibility of the violence against ‘comfort women’ coincided with the post-war period of authoritarian rule—in Taiwan the ‘White Terror’ of 1949-1987—and it was only with the beginning of the democratic reforms in late 1980s, that the survivors started to publicly come forward and demand justice, supported institutionally by the establishment of Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation (TWRF) in 1992. Here the question of the psychic mechanism of suppression is inseparable from the social repudiation, stigmatization and silencing of the survivors.(15) The temporal gap between their endurance of trauma and its public surfacing is demonstrative not only of what Freud (and, more recently, Jean Laplanche) theorized as ‘belatedness’ (Nachträglichkeit) of trauma, but also of what Arthur S. Blank Jr. has called the societal and political “aversion to knowing [what is] too painful and horrifying and difficult.”(16) In the case of Ama it is, perhaps paradoxically, not the victims themselves, but the post-war Taiwanese public that cannot process and assimilate the events, by “refusing to recognize the reality of a traumatic perception.”(17) What is being established through the silencing and erasures of rape testimonies in the post-war public and cultural discourses is a particular version of Taiwanese colonial history, whereby the Japanese imperial project in Taiwan, specifically in regard to the indigenous populations, features as a mutually beneficial expansion of cultural and technological achievements in the East Asian region. The Ama stories of sexual enslavement by the Japanese army had the potential to reveal the fictitiousness of this historical construct by testifying to the overt violence and brutality perpetrated systematically by the allegedly benign colonizer, thereby revealing the dual logic at work—the appropriation of women’s bodies and the dispossession of native peoples—that had always already been present in the imperial project.(18)
Assuming strong connection between the ‘event’ and ‘environment’, and between ‘psychic suppression’ and ‘social disavowal’, in the theory of trauma, this essay zooms onto the complex issue of the trauma of sexual slavery in Taiwan from the specific angle of the philosophy of traumatic listening. The motif of ‘listening’ to Amas’ stories only contributes important feminist and non-Western insights to the theory of trauma through the emphasis on embodied, sensory and affective reception of traumatic histories by the larger public, but also can potentially weave into our thinking about trauma a more hopeful conception of the subject—one that assumes an affirmative and agential relation to the past.
Philosophic Perspectives on Listening to Trauma
In the writings of Cathy Caruth, and of many other contemporary theorists of collective trauma, the idiom of ‘listening to trauma’ is differentiated from the attempts at comprehending or ‘grasping’ the inner life of a person who has experienced an extreme form of violence. ‘Listening’ to trauma and obtaining a narrative knowledge about the violent events are thus divergent, and potentially conflicting modes of engagement with trauma. In trauma theory, ‘listening’ is closely linked to adopting a position of ethical receptivity towards the victim, even though one might never be able to comprehend her experience. Furthermore, trauma listening as an act of receptivity to the voice and story of the other is premised upon a testimonial address. Jacques Derrida describes the witness as someone who implicates the listener into her story through a specific speech act: ‘believe me, I have been there’, ‘believe me, I have seen it’.(19) The etymology of the word ‘witness’ comes from two Latin words: testis (‘the third’—someone capable of producing an objective proof of her experience) and superstes (literally, ‘one who stands by’, i.e. in direct proximity to the violent event, and who survives it). Derrida argues that the fundamental speech act of a witness is a plea to be believed in spite of the lack of formal proof. This insight resonates strongly with the Ama case who have not achieved formal justice in the court of law. In a sense, one could say that the Amas ‘cannot’ produce a proof, or what Derrida calls “the theoretical-constative certitude”(20) of what happened to them (even though, of course, there is plenty of material evidence and documentation confirming the existence of ‘comfort stations’, their systematic and forced character, as well as its geo-political scope). That further emphasizes he precarity of their voices in the face of the political denial of responsibility, and the failure of the justice. Thus, the question of the public attention to the voices of Amas is also a question about the relationship between public listening to trauma and a more radical conception of justice (beyond the formal justice of the law, or what Derrida calls “the justice of a judgement”).(21)
Furthermore, Derrida emphasizes the intertwining of ‘presence’ (being there) with ‘present’ (narrating past in the continuous tense) in the act of witnessing; he writes that “[he] or she will have been present at, in the present, the thing to which he testifies.”(22) These intertwining spatial-temporal motifs of “being-present” and “being-in-presence” resonate strongly with the first-person testimonies collected by the Ama Museum: the striking characteristic of the survivors’ testimonies is that they are often not formulated in the past tense, as events that had come to an end, but, rather, as continuing or reverberating in the present, with powerful psychological, social and cultural effects: what they endured, has ‘ended’, ‘ruined’ and ‘sealed’ them as “worthless women.”(23)
In his work on the archive and the witness, Dori Laub also linked closely the practice of listening to survivors of atrocities and “bearing witness to trauma.”(24) Laub says that “[for] the testimonial process to take place, there needs to be a bonding, the intimate and total presence of [another]—in the position of one who hears.”(25) This complicates the subject position of a listener, who doesn’t simply ‘listen to trauma’, but also ‘from the site of trauma’. The contemporary Taiwanese public is ‘fixed’ within an identity that is both post-colonial and post-authoritarian, and thus listening to the stories of Amas has to do with the listeners’ recognition that these stories are simultaneously external to them (in the sense of not having any experiential knowledge of it) and internal to them, in that these stories do not simply dispassionately narrate, but affect, stir, and activate the subjects’ own (direct or trans-generational) trauma during the war or the ‘White Terror’ period. ‘Listening to trauma’ exceeds in this context the goals of production of the historical knowledge about Japan’s sexual slavery system; rather, it is about the recognition of the entwinement of Amas’ voices with Taiwan’s history of colonial and authoritarian violence, and the psychic resonance between the personal and public articulations of this history. Elsewhere, Laub makes a somewhat puzzling statement about the ethical dimension of ‘listening to trauma’ as producing “a record that has yet to be made,” by which he means that testimony does not pre-exist the practice of listening, but that it takes “shape” (‘Gestalt’) with, and through, that listening. He compares the practice of listening to the “work of a midwife,” in that the listener’s role is to “create a place in the imagination for the trauma […]; in order to transmit the testimony, it needs to process with an imaginative midwife who [is] there ahead of time, ready to receive.”(26) In the case of Amas, just as it is important to recognize in their narratives of return to their families and local communities after the war the poignant emphasis on (to paraphrase Laub) the ‘unwillingness to receive’ (the Amas’ testimonies), so is it significant to recognize the current displays of national and international attention to Amas’ stories as a shift towards public listening and receptivity. I discuss below two trajectories through which such public listening has proceeded—quasi-legal and artistic-therapeutic—and argue, invoking Lena Herzog’s phrase ‘endangered voices’,(27) that at stake in both these trajectories has been the gathering and ‘holding together’ of the previously dispersed and suppressed voices in communal, therapeutic or artistic spaces.
Listening to Amas at the Tokyo Tribunal
The Women’s International Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery (2002-2001), was the result of the concerted efforts of non-governmental organizations grouped within the framework of the Violence Against Women in War-Network Japan. It was a result of collaborations and activism in the region since 1990s, and, in addition to Taiwan, it included prosecution teams from North and South Korea, China, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, East Timor, the Netherlands. Despite the invitation to participate in the proceedings, the Japanese government did not offer a response.
As a people’s tribunal, the Tokyo Tribunal was an unofficial and symbolic process; even though it couldn’t “impose sentences or order reparations,” it did “make recommendations backed by the weight of its legal findings and its moral force.”(28) It was organized from a position of critique of the failure of the formal justice system to address the claims of victims of the Japanese sexual slavery system, and it built on the larger premise that “law is an instrument of civil society,” which “does not belong to governments” and thus “when states fail to exercise their obligations to ensure justice, civil society can and should step in.”(29) Its institutional framework was the World Courts of Women, with an explicit goal of creating a testimonial platform for women’s voices.(30) The indictments were organized as if the Tokyo Tribunal was a continuation of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE); it stated that Japan’s prosecution of war crimes was “incomplete” precisely because it had “inadequately considered rape and sexual enslavement and had failed to bring charges arising out of the detention of women for sexual services.”(31)
One important difference between the Tokyo Tribunal and the IMTFE was that in the former the victims of the crimes, rather than the perpetrators, were “the moral point of departure.”(32) Supporting my suggestion that one of the key functions of the tribunal was to provide a listening platform for ‘engendered voices’ of the women, Dudden argues that the tribunal “aimed to enable and encourage surviving victims to speak out, [and] to tell the truth of their lives in front of judges and witnesses who believed them.”(33) This interplay of listening and believing was a key part of the reparative process that sought to counter the history of social silencing of the survivors by “restoring dignity to [them].” The practice of listening within the testimonial platforms of the tribunal resulted not only in extensive knowledge about Japan’s sexual slavery system,(34) but also in granting epistemic and interpretative significance to the Amas’ voices, and in what Dudden has called “restoration of dignity.”(35) The Tokyo Tribunal gathered and ‘held together’ the previously dispersed and isolated voices of the victims, contributing to cross-national solidarity and community building.
Listening to Amas at the Ama Museum
The Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation produced two documentary films about the victims of the Japanese sexual slavery system: A Secret Buried for 50 Years—The Story of the Taiwanese ‘Comfort Women’, which documents the Amas’ experiences during and immediately after the war, and Song of the Reed, which focuses on the local and international struggle for justice and the reparative processes undertaken since 1990s, and highlights the Amas’ survival and defiance.(36) While different in their goals, narrative orientation and affect, the films have that in common that they construct archives of the Amas’ voices, and as such, I suggest, exemplify artistic and historiographic practices of listening. The temporality of ‘endangered voices’ has provided an organizing frame for the TWRF activities—there is a sense of urgency in both the calls for accountability and recognition, and in documenting the victims’ experiences.
The first documentary, A Secret Buried for 50 Years, introduces the Taiwanese Amas and consists of short direct interventions in which they narrate their experiences (it also includes the perspectives of bystanders, such as Lin Chun Chiang, a former Japanese soldier of Taiwanese descent). The key motif in the Amas’ stories is, first, the feelings of shame upon their return to the communities, and silence surrounding their victimization, even in their families (the common phrase used by the survivors was that of “hiding” or “hiding face”).(37) In a particularly poignant moment of the film, a Taruko woman Hsiu Feng Ho, covers her face with a hand while narrating, in a gesture that is not only evocative of shame (hiding the face from the world), and also that is about the unwillingness or incapacity to see, again, the site of her trauma.
During the art therapy and wellness workshops organized by the TWRF, and which continued for 16 years, the figure of the face (as a metaphorical idiom and as material ‘item’) has been the focus of great attention. In one of the exercises, called “Prison, Prohibition, Taboo,” the Amas created dark rectangular masks, through which only their eyes were visible—it expressed what they could not say or show about their experiences through “the customary frame,” that is “the pressure of family, society and custom.”(38) In two other exercises, the Amas were asked to paint white masks to express how they see their faces (“mask of emotion”) and to paint figures of themselves to express how they see their bodies (“a dialogue with your body” and “the body speaks out”). The result was a powerful collection of representations of pain, abjection and violation, and of lost youth and beauty. The therapist noted the contrast between the Amas’ living elderly body and their self-image of a young woman, as if, she suggested, something froze or ossified internally at the time of their violation. For instance, Hsiu-mei said that her mask, with “dark, chaotic lines inside […] signified her inner self that went unseen.”(39)
Photograph 1. Image of a mask created by one of the Amas, and displayed at the Ama Museum in Taipei.
The listening spaces of the therapeutic workshops evolved around practices or rituals of ‘undoing the past’: some of the iconic images of Amas that have circulated in Taiwan were of their pictures in wedding dresses. This was a 2006 project called “Realizing the Dream of Wearing Wedding Gowns.” Ama Hsiu-Mei had another unrealized dream—of becoming an air hostess—and in result the “TWRF coordinated with China Airlines to arrange for Ama Hsiu-mei, at the age of 93, to work for one day as the oldest flight attendant in the air line’s history.”(40) The workshops adopted the “healing framework” of the Chinese character for “return” in order to “signify healing and companionship.” Further, the “Chinese character [for] ‘mouth’ [and] ‘opening’” was also adopted; it “symbolizes the mental wounds and bodily memories encompassed in the [Amas’] artwork.” Putting “two of these characters together suggests [that] the Amas’ voices have joined forces, demonstrating women’s power and the sisterhood of mutual support.”(41) The drama counsellor, Hung Su-Chen, described such reparative ‘undoing’ as an aporetic attempt to not only relive their lives, but to “live [their lives] backwards, […] to [live] their lives on their own terms […], [to] create their own life experiences and to re-enact all kinds of possibilities at will.”(42)
Photograph 2. “Realizing the Dream of Wearing Wedding Gowns” project.
I have argued in this essay that philosophic discussions on listening to trauma offer unique insights into the ethical stakes of public recognition of the stories of the Taiwanese victims of the Japanese military sexual slavery system. The act of listening in this context describes public receptiveness towards these first-hand accounts of marginalized and stigmatized history, and it comes from the demands of radical justice and from a sense temporal urgency: that the time for listening to Amas is now, that shortly it is going to be too late. I have described Amas’ voices as ‘endangered’ because of their social, bodily and mnemonic vulnerability.
The conclusions from linking philosophy of trauma listening with the analysis of the recent public attention to Amas in Taiwan are threefold. First, the philosophic insight into trauma listening suggests the Taiwanese publics’ intimate relation to the marginalized history of ‘comfort stations’ due to its important and frequently unrecognized colonial and authoritarian context (what I have called in the essay ‘trauma environment’ of the ‘event’ of sexual slavery). The practice of such listening differs from the production of knowledge and the goal of ‘comprehension’; instead, it is about (often unconscious) resonance between different forms of historic violence and trauma. Second, an important aspect of the Amas’ story is that it was marginalized and supressed in post-war Taiwan, and that, in the present, it has not had a satisfactory restitutive response. The writings by Jacques Derrida suggest that there is no straightforward relationship between listening and justice, and that ethical listening ‘radicalizes’ justice by locating it beyond the economy of retribution and reparation. Third, it is an important question ‘who’ is the Taiwanese public undertaking the listening practice. I suggest that it is a subject in need of deeper de-colonization and democratization, who, to an extent, recognizes her intergenerational connection to the Amas, though also finds herself incapable to fully comprehend or rectify that traumatic history.
A Secret Buried for 50 Years—The Story of the Taiwanese ‘Comfort Women’ (Taipei: Taipei
Women’s Rescue Foundation, 1998).
Azoulay, Ariella. “The Natural History of Rape.” Journal of Visual Culture 17, no.2 (2018):
Caruth, Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History (Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1996).
Cathy Caruth. “A Record That Has Yet to Be Made: An Interview with Dori Laub.” Listening to
Trauma: Conversations with Leaders in the Theory and Treatment of Catastrophic
Experience, ed. Cathy Caruth (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014): 47-81.
Caruth, Cathy. “Apocalypse Terminable and Interminable: An Interview with Arthur S. Blank
Jr.” Listening to Trauma: Conversations with Leaders in the Theory and Treatment of
Catastrophic Experience, ed. Cathy Caruth (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014): 271-296.
Ching-Yuan, Chou, “A Cave in Taiwan: Comfort Women’s Memories and the Local Identity.”
In Places of Pain and Shame: Dealing with ‘Difficult Heritage’, ed. L. William et al. 114-127 (London: Routledge, 2008).
Chinkin, Christine M. “Women’s International Tribunal on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery.”
The American Journal of International Law 95, no.2 (2001): 335-341.
Chunag, Henry K. M. “Email to Magdalena Zolkos.” 18 October 2017.
Derrida, Jacques. Sovereignties in Question (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005).
Dolgopol, Tina. “The Judgment of the Tokyo Women’s Tribunal.” Alternative Law Journal 28,
no.5 (2003): 242-249.
Dogopol, Tina. “Searching for Justice: the Tokyo Women’s Tribunal,” Open Democracy 12
Dudden, Alexis. “‘We Came to Tell the Truth’: Reflections on the Tokyo Women’s Tribunal.”
Critical Asian Studies 33, no.4 (2001): 591-602.
Entitled Opinions, Robert Harrison, February 2, 2018,
Faces of Ah-Ma (Taipei: Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, 2005).
Felman, Shoshana and Laub, Dori. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature,
Psychoanalysis, and History (New York: Taylor & Francis, 1992).
Laplanche, Jean and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis. The Language of Psycho-Analysis (London:
Luckhurt, Roger. The Trauma Question (London: Routledge, 2013)
Min, S.K., Lee, C.H., Kim, J.Y. and Sim, E.J. “Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Former ‘Comfort
Women’.” The Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences 48, no.3 (2011): 161-169.
Peng, Jenyu, “When the ‘Comfort Women’ Speak—Shareability and Recognition of
Traumatic Memory.” In Shared Traumas, Silent Loss, Public and Private Mourning, ed. Lene Auestad (New York: Routledge, 2017): 115-136.
Soh, C. Sarah. “Japan’s National/Asian Women’s Fund for ‘Comfort Women’.” Pacific Affairs
76, no.2 (2003): 209-233.
Song of the Reed (Taipei: Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, 2015).
Tanaka, Yuki, Japan’s Comfort Women (London: Routledge, 2002).
Visser, Irene. “Trauma Theory and Postcolonial Literary Studies,” Journal of Postcolonial
Writing 47, no.3 (2011): 270-282.
Yoshiaki, Yoshimi, Comfort Women. Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military During World
War II (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002).
- A Secret Buried for 50 Years—The Story of the Taiwanese ‘Comfort Women’ (Taipei: Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, 1998).
- A Secret Buried for 50 Years.
- Exhibition on the history of sexual enslavement of Taiwanese women by the Japanese imperial army during the Pacific war, and of the subsequent struggle for justice, Ama Museum. The material was collected during my field-work in Taiwan in 2017.
- The survivors and their supporting activists, legal workers and local allies have preferred the name ‘Ama’ over ‘comfort women’, which is a direct translation of the Japanese ian-fu, and a euphemism for a female sex worker, as well as the term used by the military policies of sexual slavery during the war. Incorporating within the discourse on the victims of Japanese sexual slavery an alternative name for the survivors (Ama) has been important for re-shaping the debate. The language of ‘comfort women’ and ‘comfort stations’ had been detrimentally coloured by the Japanese nationalist and reactionary depictions of the survivors as voluntary profiteers of the economic ‘opportunities’ of the system (perhaps most scandalously, Yoshinori Kobayashi’s manga books “On War” and “On Taiwan”). Since 1996 the UN has used the name ‘military sexual slaves’ to refer to the victims, which has been a mark of international recognition of the issue as a war crime and as a gross human rights violation; however, some of the survivors expressed their unease with a terminology that, they argued, reduced and solidified their identity as (solely) the victims of oppression, and sought to depict themselves instead as (also) ‘refractory subjects’—survivors of oppression and agents of history. Scholars and activists has acknowledged the importance of the term ‘sexual slavery’ as a historical descriptor of the program, rather than older term ‘enforced prostitution’, but have also pointed out the limitations stemming from the UN and ICC definitions of slavery, which emphasize primarily the commercial exchange and monetary profit as characteristics of slavery, and only mention sexual violence as its secondary aspect, thereby excluding the victims’ experience of “the loss of control over their bodies” from the definition of sexual slavery. Sarah C. Soh, “Japan’s National/Asian Women’s Fund for ‘Comfort Women’,” Pacific Affairs 76, no.2 (2003): 209-233.
- Tina Dogopol, “Searching for Justice: the Tokyo Women’s Tribunal,” Open Democracy, 12 May 2015.
- Christine M. Chinkin, “Women’s International Tribunal on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery,” The American Journal of International Law 95, no.2 (2001): 335-341.
- See for example Roger Luckhurt, The Trauma Question (London: Routledge, 2013).
- Cathy Caruth, Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996).
- Caruth, Unclaimed Experience, xiii, xvi.
- Caruth, Unclaimed Experience, 3.
- Chou Ching-Yuan, “A Cave in Taiwan: Comfort Women’s Memories and the Local Identity,” in Keir Reeves and William Steward Logan, eds., Places of Pain and Shame: Dealing with ‘Difficult Heritage’ (London: Routledge, 2008): 114-127.
- Chinkin, “Women’s International Tribunal…,” 335-336.
- Soh, “Japan’s National…,” 2011. See also Yuki Tanaka, Japan’s Comfort Women (London: Routledge, 2002); Yoshimi Yoshiaki, Comfort Women. Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military During World War II (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002).
- See for example Irene Visser, “Trauma Theory and Postcolonial Literary Studies,” Journal of Postcolonial Writing 47, no.3 (2011): 270-282.
- While I regrettably wasn’t able to interview any of the surviving Amas for this research, I have exchanged emails with Henry K. M Chunag in October 2018. Mr Chunag was one of the founders of the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, and of the providers of legal council to the Taiwanese victims of Japanese military sexual slavery system in 1990s.
- Arthur S. Blank Jr. in: Cathy Caruth, “Apocalypse Terminable and Interminable: An Interview with Arthur S. Blank Jr.,” Cathy Caruth, ed., Listening to Trauma: Conversations with Leaders in the Theory and Treatment of Catastrophic Experience (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014): 271-296, 274.
- Jean Laplanche and Jean-Bertrand Pontalis, The Language of Psycho-Analysis (London: W.W.Norton, 1973): 118.
- Focusing on a photographic archive from Berlin in 1945, Ariella Azoulay reinterprets photographs conventionally read as a documentation of the destruction of German cities in the end of the war as an “affective and sonic register” of the erased history of the mass rape of women by the Allies’ soldiers. Azoulay argues that the invisibility of women and of rape in these photographic representations of the destroyed Berlin (which she sees as an urban topography of rape) has to do with “the Allies’ post-war efforts to present themselves as saviors, thus legitimizing their continued imperial dominance.” Ariella Azoulay, “The Natural History of Rape,” Journal of Visual Culture 17, no.2 (2018): 166-176, 166.
- Jacques Derrida, Sovereignties in Question (New York: Fordham University Press, 2005): 75-76.
- Derrida, Sovereignties…, 75.
- Derrida, Sovereignties…, 142.
- Derrida, Sovereignties…, 74.
- Kuei-Ying Tsai in Faces of Ah-Ma (Taipei: Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, 2005).
- Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History (New York: Routledge, 1992): 70.
- Felman and Laub, Crises… 70-71.
- Dori Laub in Cathy Caruth, “A Record That Has Yet to Be Made: An Interview with Dori Laub,” Cathy Caruth, ed., Listening to Trauma: Conversations with Leaders in the Theory and Treatment of Catastrophic Experience (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014): 47-81, 57.
- Lena Herzog on the radio show Entitled Opinions, February 2, 2018, https://entitledopinions.stanford.edu/lena-herzog-dying-languages.
- Chinkin, “Women’s International Tribunal…,” 339.
- Chinkin, “Women’s International Tribunal…,” 339.
- See e.g. Dolgopol, Tina, “The Judgment of the Tokyo Women’s Tribunal,” Alternative Law Journal 28.5 (2003): 242-249.
- Chinkin, “Women’s International Tribunal…,” 337.
- C.M. Argibay, quoted in Alexis Dudden, “‘We Came to Tell the Truth’: Reflections on the Tokyo Women’s Tribunal,” Critical Asian Studies 33.4 (2001): 591-602: 592.
- Dudden, “‘We Came to Tell the Truth’…” 593; emphasis mine.
- Dudden, “‘We Came to Tell the Truth’…” 593.
- Song of the Reed (Taipei: Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, 2015).
- A Secret Buried for 50 Years.
- Faces of Ah-Ma.
- These quotations are from the inscriptions at the Ama Museum.
- Ama Museum.
- Ama Museum.
- Ama Museum.