By: Michelle L. Hauk (January 2016)
On Friday, October 21st, students, faculty, researchers, and members of the public packed room 918 in the International Affairs Building at Columbia University. Staff at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute had filled the tiny T-shaped room with as many chairs as could fit in anticipation of a big event that it co-sponsored with EALAC and the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture. “Comparative Postwars: Japan, Germany, and Elsewhere,” promised a riveting evening of postwar films, followed by stimulating panel discussions the next day. This event is a part of a longstanding tradition at Columbia University that dates back to 1989, when Carol Gluck, and later Gregory Pflugfelder, began working with Narita Ryuichi of the Japan Women’s University to plan programs every fall at Columbia University that engage a diverse range of scholars from across disciplines in Japan and the United States.
At 5:00 pm sharp, the room went dark and Oshima Nagisa’s 1971 film Ceremony (Gishiki) began. The film followed the slow and surreal unraveling of a family in postwar Japan, touching on themes of tradition, change, memory, and regret. After a break, the group reconvened for a second film, the Marriage of Maria Braun (Die Ehe der Maria Braun) directed by Rainer Fassbinder in 1979. This tragic story recounted one woman’s persistent love for a husband lost first to war and later to prison as she remakes her life in postwar Germany.
On Saturday, two panels stimulated conversation about the films and about the postwar period in Japan and Germany. In the morning, Saito Ayako of Meiji Gakuin University opened a panel discussion on “Post Wars in Film: Japan and Germany” with a comparative analysis of Ceremony (Gishiki) and Marriage of Maria Braun (Die Ehe der Maria Braun). Following her presentation, Tsuboi Hideto of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies and Ko Youngran of Nihon University joined her in a discussion moderated by Gregory Pflugfelder.
In the afternoon, Iwasaki Minoru of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Franziska Seraphim of Boston College, Osa Shizue of Kobe University, Watanabe Naoki of Musashi University, and Henry Rousso of Columbia University and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique joined together in a panel titled “Comparative Postwars: Remembering and Forgetting.” In this discussion, moderated by Paul Kreitman, questions of the changing legacy of World War II in Germany, Japan, and France explored how wartime experience was remembered, forgotten, and rewritten in the postwar period. Taken together, the films and conversations shared at the “Comparative Postwars: Japan, Germany, and Elsewhere” conference offered new perspectives on the role the legacy of World War II played in shaping personal experience and national memory in postwar Japan and Germany.
Friday, October 21
5:00-7:00 PM Ceremony (Gishiki), Oshima Nagisa, 1971
7:00-8:00 PM Pizza Supper
8:00-10:00 PM Marriage of Maria Braun (Die Ehe der Maria Braun), Rainer Fassbinder, 1979
Saturday, October 22
11:00 AM-1:00 PM “Post Wars in Film: Japan and Germany”
1:00-2:30 PM Lunch
3:00-5:00 PM “Comparative Postwars: Remembering and Forgetting”
PARTICIPANTS & GUESTS
Saito Ayako, Meiji Gakuin University
Narita Ryuichi, Japan Women’s University
Yoshihara Yukari, Tsukuba University
Hideto Tsuboi, International Research Center for Japanese Studies
Iwasaki Minoru, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
Youngran Ko, Nihon University
Osa Shizue, Kobe University
Naoki Watanabe, Musashi University
Franziska Seraphim, Boston College
Henry Rousso, Columbia University/Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Carol Gluck, Columbia University
Paul Kreitman, Columbia University
Gregory Pflugfelder, Columbia University