Contested Commemoration —Critics on Narrating Chinese “Comfort Women” in Media and Museums

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2024

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Abstract

With empathy, agony, and hatred, the "Comfort Women" issue has sparked vehement discussions in 21st-century China. Despite its belated emergence, the rising Chinese "Comfort Women" case has adopted a new format of commemoration to continue its discussion, situated at the crossroads between the international redress effort related to the comfort system and the creation of a legitimized narrative surrounding the "Nanjing Massacre." To contextualize the resurgence of attention towards Chinese "Comfort Women" within the framework of questions about why, for whom, and how the memory of wartime sexual violence can and should be narrated, this paper explores the contested effort in constructing Chinese "Comfort Women," considering collective remembrance, gender disparities, and national sentiments in contemporary China. This research provides a substantial analysis of news coverage from 1992 to 2023. By analyzing the frequency of mentions of the discourse of "Comfort Women," I aim to explore the context in which "Comfort Women" were reintroduced in China and how history serves as a site of political activity. Followed by the emphasis on documentary "Twenty-Two" to dismantle this macro theme into the micro digital sphere, challenging state-approved patriotic sentiments regarding "Comfort Women." Furthermore, a case study of the "Lijixiang" museum highlights the contradictory tension between the overlooked subjectivity of the survivors and the prevailing national sentiments in the name of reflection. This helps to reveal the prevalent silence among Chinese survivors, shedding light on wartime violence in villages and the ongoing patriarchal suppression faced by women. To further challenge the authenticity of national sentiments, against singular emphasis on imperial perpetration.

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Wu, Ruowei (2024). Contested Commemoration —Critics on Narrating Chinese “Comfort Women” in Media and Museums. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/31054.

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