Eika TaiFeb 17, 2021
Comfort Women Activism
Critical Voices from the Perpetrator State
Hong Kong University Press 2020
Eika Tai’s Comfort Women Activism: Critical Voices from the Perpetrator State (Hong Kong University Press, 2020) tackles the complex histories of Japanese “military sexual violence” and the activism by women in Japan, mostly since the 1990s.
Tai’s contribution to scholarship on the so-called “comfort women” issue begins with a helpful overview of both the comfort women movement and also the political and social context in which that movement arose and continues today.
Part 2: Activist Narratives, includes four chapters. Chapters 3-5 look at different ways that activists in Japan―primarily Japanese women responding directly or indirectly to the testimony of survivors―have approached the “comfort women” issue.
Tai tells the stories of two or three representative activists in each of these chapters, and demonstrates how they encapsulate a particular way of being “activists in the perpetrator state.” Chapter 6 follows the same structural approach, but ties together some of the threads from previous chapters in its analysis of the transnational feminism that led to the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal in 2000.
The book’s conclusion contrasts this approach with the thought of feminist scholar Ōgoshi Aiko, and introduces the idea of “Feminism against Japan’s Military Sexual Violence,” the title of Chapter 7.
Because it breaks new ground in understanding not just the question of military sexual violence, but also the histories of philosophical and activist feminisms, Comfort Women Activism will be of interest to historians of East Asia, gender, social movements, and more.
Nathan Hopson is an associate professor of Japanese and East Asian history in the Graduate School of Humanities, Nagoya University.