Jonathan E. Abel
The Archives of Censorship in Transwar Japan
University of California Press 2012
There is much to love about Jonathan Abel‘s new book. Redacted: The Archives of Censorship in Transwar Japan (University of California Press, 2012) brilliantly takes readers into the performance of different modes of censorship in the early and mid-twentieth century. Some practices of censorship by Japanese writers, readers, and authorities left traces that now rest in a transnational and multi-sited archive of marks, symbols, and conspicuous absences. In extended sections of the book that treat the preservation, production, and redaction of censors’ traces as they emerge from this translocal archive, Abel considers how the structures and processes of a textual archive (broadly defined) offer an architecture for building a history of censorship.
Along the way, we are offered insights into the kinds of texts in which the history of the censor is inscribed, the kinds of texts and subjects that most invited the censor’s hand (whether the “censor” was an author self-editing or an authority figure coming to a text after its completion), and the capacities of censorship to generate new forms of literary production. At several points in the book (and especially in Pt III) Abel is wonderfully self-reflexive, experimenting with narrative forms to embody the kinds of textual practices that he writes about in his own writing style. The book closes with a coda that looks at information restriction in mid-twentieth century Japan and critically considers prevailing attitudes toward historicization in the disciplines of Asian studies. Redacted is full of contributions to fields that might not be obvious from the title: readers interested in archive studies, histories of the body, studies of translation, and histories of observation and violence will find inspiration here. Enjoy!