Residues of Hiroshima 75 Years on: Nuclear Tests, Trauma, Identity, and the Ending of the War

Title: 1214 | Residues of Hiroshima 75 Years on: Nuclear Tests, Trauma, Identity, and the Ending of the War
Area: Northeast Asia
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Roundtable
Yuko Shibata, Meiji Gakuin University, Japan (organizer, discussant,roundtable-chair)
Atsuko Shigesawa, Kobe City University of Foreign Studies, Japan (discussant)
Hiroko Takahashi, Nara University, Japan (discussant)


As we approach the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear issues are still frighteningly relevant. Developments such as the deadlocked US-North Korean nuclear talks, the US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and the US deployment of “low-yield” nuclear missiles, preclude any sense of historical closure this anniversary. Featuring four scholars of history, politics, and memory of nuclear discourses across national boundaries, our session considers nuclear history from various and varied points of view, including nuclear victims’ standing in domestic and international politics, the atomic bomb’s ideological formations, individual and collective trauma, and nuclear weapons’ close connections with nuclear energy. Atsuko Shigesawa considers debates within the Manhattan Engineer District (MED) and the US Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS) as to the importance of the atomic bomb on ending the war. While these US institutions disagreed on the bomb’s effect, both denied the effects of residual radiation, an issue that had a tragic impact on Japanese hibakusha and nuclear test survivors. Yuko Shibata takes up President Truman’s August 1945 statement and argues the relationship between the bomb and American national identity, while problematizing the US usurping of signifying power, which established the US as discursive hegemon versus the rest of the world. Hiroko Takahashi investigates the close connections between US medical and military organizations in the 1950’s: the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC), which collected organ samples of the hibakusha in Hiroshima, and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP), which researched nuclear testing. Ran Zwigenberg revisits psychiatric research on the hibakusha in the 1960’s, in the context on research of Holocaust survivors and Vietnam veterans, which together paved the way for recognizing PTSD and the subsequent establishment of trauma studies. By probing these interlocking issues, our session aims at examining and uncovering neglected histories of the bombing in order to understand how the current nuclear world came into being.

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