The film screenings are not sponsored by any department or unit at Central; rather they are taking place at the behest of an individual faculty member, a Japanese language instructor.
ADDENDUM: There has been a great deal of discussion back and forth about whether or not an academic unit at CWU is "sponsoring" the screenings of Scottsboro Girls. Our understanding is that while no department considers itself to be a "sponsor," the faculty member in question scheduled the screening venues through her home department and that scheduling arrangement continues. The semantic distinctions between "sponsoring" and "scheduling" are a matter of continued discussion.
The film’s on line previews:
and the announcement of the screening:
suggest that the film is an appallingly shoddy, sexist and racist piece of propaganda, without any serious scholarly content. It repeats many of the standard talking points of far rightist Japanese activists denying official complicity in the "Comfort Women" system during the war period.
For those who read Japanese, the letter of invitation by the Japanese language lecturer and the response by the director, are at:
Their correspondence refers to the possibility that Korean (or Korea-associated) faculty might interfere with the screening. (This appear to be a thinly veiled attack on our colleague, the political scientist Dr. Bang-Soon Yoon, who has published extensively on wartime sexual slavery and "Comfort Women," and who some years ago brought a surviving witness to speak on campus. )The film preview makes absurd, unfounded allegations against serious scholars of the "Comfort Women" issue, such as Katharine Moon.
The timing of the screenings would appear planned to coincide with the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his address on April 29 a the joint meeting of Congress. (Addendum: Thanks to a comment poster below for noting that April 28 is the 114th birthday of the Showa Emperor, Hirohito.) Abe has of course been notable for his denial of Japanese state complicity in wartime human rights atrocities, including state-sponsorship of the sexual slavery or “Comfort Women” system.
All of this is consistent with what appears to be a general campaign waged by Japanese rightists, in conjunction with reported efforts by the Japanese Foreign Ministry, to pressure US and Japanese academics from engaging in critical research and publishing on the "Comfort Women" or wartime sexual slavery issue. See an important letter by prominent US Japan historians on this crisis:
And see the rebuttal points to the major ultra-rightist nationalist claims on the "Comfort Women" issue.
In this context, my colleague the historian Chong Eun Ahn and I, in consultation with many scholars here and elsewhere, have organized an academic symposium on the "Comfort Women"issue and related struggles over historical memory in Japan and the Pacific, to take place on Tuesday, April 28 at 7:00 pm in the SURC ballroom. We’re calling the gathering, “Sexual Slavery in the Wartime Japanese Empire: The Historical Record and the Politics of Memory: A Panel of Concerned Scholars.” Panelists are
- Dr. Bang-Soon Yoon (Political Science)
- Chong Eun Ahn (History)
- Dr. Anne Cubilié (Douglas Honors College)
- Dr. Yukiko Shigeto (Foreign Languages and Literatures, Whitman College)
- Dr. Davinder Bhowmik (Asian Languages and Literature, University of Washington)
- Dr. Justin Jesty (Asian Languages and Literature, University of Washington)
- Dr. Mark Auslander (Anthropology and Museum Studies)
- Moderator: Dr. Stacey Robertson (Dean, College of Arts and Humanities)
Some of our colleagues initially suggested it would be better not to dignify this poisonous film with a scholarly response, but on reflection, it seems to us that not to organize a counter-point would be, in a sense, to be complicit with the screening. I’m especially mindful, overseeing a Museum Studies program that teaches our students how to tackle with difficult dialogues about history, belonging and memory, that we have a special pedagogic responsibility to model effective and thoughtful academic responses to these kinds of traumatic fault-lines.
It has been a painful process for so many of us--realizing that our campus is in a sense under assault from those who would seek to repress these horrific chapters in collective terror and injustice; these efforts do strike many of us as akin to Holocaust denial. It is also distressing to see the cynical way that the language of “academic freedom” is used to defend discourse that really is tantamount to un-scholarly hate speech. For a scholar of African American Studies it is especially galling to see the cynical appropriation of the "Scottsboro Boys" case in entitling the film (quite ludicrously) "Scottsboro Girls," evidently implying that the Japanese military has been falsely accused of mass rape during wartime.
At the same time, it has been heartening to experience so much support from conscientious colleagues and students here, and around the world, who have been helping us think about how best to respond to this dreadful film in a way that turns this assault on historical truth into a "teachable moment."
ADDENDUM: While I appreciate the intensity of interest this matter has generated, especially from conservative bloggers, it does now strike me as counter-productive to continue comments for this post, especially since a couple of commentators out there are posting ad hominen attacks on individuals (deleted) or posting rather generic, well rehearsed pieces, reproduced from other sources, on the broader Comfort Women issue. So comments are closed for this specific post.