The Long Defeat: Cultural Trauma, Memory, and Identity in Japan

In The Long Defeat: Cultural Trauma, Memory, and Identity in Japan (Oxford University Press 2015), I explore the stakes of war memory in Japan after its catastrophic defeat in World War II, showing how and why defeat has become an indelible part of national collective life, especially in recent decades. Divisive war memories lie at the root of the contentious politics surrounding Japan's pacifist constitution and remilitarization, and fuel the escalating frictions in East Asia known collectively as Japan's "history problem." Drawing on ethnography, interviews, and a wealth of popular memory data, this book identifies three preoccupations - national belonging, healing, and justice - in Japan's discourses of defeat. I uncover the key war memory narratives that are shaping Japan's choices - nationalism, pacifism, or reconciliation - for addressing the rising international tensions and finally overcoming its dark history.


"A major achievement, theoretically and empirically, The Long Defeat exposes startling fractures in Japanese identity that will affect regional and global politics for decades to come. Timely and empathic, this is also a deeply disturbing book."

-Jeffrey C. Alexander, Lillian Chavenson Saden Professor of Sociology, Yale University

"World War II is no longer a lived experience for the vast majority of people. But in East Asia today the politics of war memory are more divisive than ever. The Long Defeat is must reading for anyone seeking to understand why. With a deeply grounded comparative perspective, Akiko Hashimoto offers a searching and compassionate analysis of the way people in Japan have dealt with the traumatic memory of war over the long postwar decades."

-Andrew Gordon, Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History, Harvard University

"The Long Defeat is a sweeping analysis of Japanese memory from virtually every angle--political, cultural, and personal--across the span of postwar history. There is hardly anything else like it. It is an essential contribution to the scholarly literature as well as an exceptionally compelling read."

-Jeffrey Olick, Professor of Sociology and History, University of Virginia