Haunted by Defeat: Imperial Sexualities, Prostitution, and the Emergence of Postwar Japan

Kramm, R. “Haunted by Defeat: Imperial Sexualities, Prostitution, and the Emergence of Postwar Japan.” Journal of World History, vol. 28 no. 3, 2017, pp. 587-614.  doi:10.1353/jwh.2017.0043
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Abstract
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This article addresses sexuality and prostitution as key elements in the emergence of postwar Japanese nationalism. It analyzes discursive practices, which Japan’s authorities used to conceptualize the recreational facilities aimed at “comforting” the Allied occupiers during the still imaginary encounter of occupier and occupied in the immediate post-surrender period. The conceptualization of prostitution at the end of WWII is a pivotal example for the clash of competing empires, the disintegration of Japan’s empire, and postwar imagination of the Japanese nation-state. Since the early twentieth century Japan’s aggressive war and colonial rule in Asia exported sex workers as well as specific notions of sexuality—often mediated through further global entanglements with the West and its colonies—that had shaped the understanding of Japan’s empire and Japanese imperial subjectivity. With defeat in 1945, Japan’s imperial dreams shattered, but imperial experiences of sexuality and prostitution continued to shape ideas of Japanese belonging.

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