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On the 60th anniversary of the Nanking Massacre, a committee of Princeton University students is convening Nanking 1937, an academic conference intended to foster scholarly discussion and investigation of this controversial event. Despite the attempts at normalization that followed World War II, the unapologetic stance of the Japanese government and lack of global awareness of the Nanking Massacre combine to heighten the need for thorough historical research in the context of modern society.
On Friday Nov. 21, Ian Buruma, author of "The Wages of Guilt," and a leading commentator on Asian politics and culture, will deliver the keynote lecture. Buruma studies post-war guilt and moral responsibility for war atrocities in Germany and Japan through the context of national identity.
On Saturday Nov. 22, there will be an introductory lecture by Ying-shih Yu of Princeton, followed by two panel discussions moderated by Perry Link and Sheldon Garon of Princeton, respectively.
Panel I, Creating the Past: Multiple Histories of Nanking 1937, will feature Vera Schwarcz of Wes leyan, Takashi Yoshida and author Iris Chang. This panel will examine the different histories that have arisen in an attempt to record the Nanking Massacre, including the conservative and progressive Japanese post-war viewpoints, and the Chinese and Chinese-American perceptions of the event. Other issues to be addressed include inquiry into the perpetuation of Japan's post-ear culture of denial, which has led to widespread ignorance of her wartime atrocities, and how do collective memory and group psychology affect popular perception of this tragedy.
Panel II, Healing Past Wounds: From Conflict to Cooperation, will feature Richard Falk of Princeton, Yang Daqing of George Washington, activist and proponent of Japanese reparations Gilbert Hair and Norman Itzkowitz of Princeton. This panel will address questions such as: How does postwar culture affect contemporary Asian politics, what problems, political, social and psychological, are caused by conflicting representations of Nanking 1937, and how can we move beyond such conflict to foster greater intercultural exchange? The Nanking Massacre's position in the arena of international law and politics will be analyzed, as well as obstacles to reparations demands.
The conference will also include two presentations and a question and answer session with Japanese professors and historians Ikuhiko Hata of Chiba University, and Tokushi Kasahara of Utsunomiya University. The presentations by Hata, a more conservative moderate in his studies of victim statistics, and Kasahara, a leader of the progressive movement in Japan, should prove an unparalleled opportunity to gain a clearer understanding of the heated debate in modern-day Japan over war responsibility.
In conjunction with the conference, a week-long film series will be held that will feature three documentaries. "Magee's Testament," provides a first-ha nd glimpse of actual footage of the Nanking Massacre as filmed by missionaries in Nanking at the time. David Magee, the son of Reverend John Magee (Chairman of the Nanking Red Cross Council), will speak on his own experiences in Nanking during the Japanese occupation. "In the Name of the Emperor", directed by Christine Choy and Nancy Tong, is a critically acclaimed documentary presenting interviews and recollections of Chinese, American and Japanese citizens and soldiers involved in the war. Ms. Tong will be present at the movie screening on Nov. 21. In addition, critically acclaimed producer Lou Reda will present his documentary "Murder Under the Sun" on Tuesday Nov. 18.
Also during the conference week, an exhibition of photographs and primary documents, including missionary, victim and soldier accounts of the Massacre, will be on display with annotations. The materials are of a sensitive nature, due to the anguish and pain surrounding the events, but the exhibition aims to educate visitors with the goal of prevention of future brutality. Photographs are made possible through Shi Young, author of "The Rape of Nanking," and many documents are available through the extensive archives of the Yale Divinity Library. Both Shi Young and Martha Lund Smalley, the curator of the Day Missions Collection at Yale, will give presentations on, respectively, the research of victim statistics and its significance, and the role of missionaries in saving thousands of Chinese lives.