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Kamikaze: The Myth and its Lessons

27 jui 2016 17:00 - 19:00
Institut d'études avancées de Paris
Hôtel de Lauzun
17 quai d'Anjou
75004 Paris

Conférence d’Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, résidente de l'IEA de Paris.


At the very end of World War II, when an American invasion of the Japan’s homeland seemed imminent, Ōnishi Takijirō,a navy vice-admiral, invented the tokkōtai operation (Special Attack Force) – one-way missions using planes, gliders, and submarine torpedoes – hoping that they bring about a miracle, like the time when the Mongolian invasions of Japan in 1274 and 1281 were prevented by the “kamikaze, god’s wind,” which overturned their ships before reaching the shore. The operation was propelled by the “deluded” war-time military leaders for their last hurrah, while sacrificing young soldiers’ lives. Of about 4000 soldiers who perished, 3,000 were “boy soldiers” and 1, 000 were university grads, intellectual crème de la crème.

Showing some visual images, the talk outlines the operation and introduces the voices of those who left their thoughts and feelings in their diaries. It will emphasize how aestheticization, using the metaphor of cherry blossoms, was deployed by the military government which told the young men “to fall like beautiful cherry blossoms,” as an example of a common practice by military governments in various parts of the world, past and present, to mislead young minds. The talk will offer the “facts” of the operation which victimized both Japan’s enemy, the US, and its own people. It will also show how some suggested that the “kamikaze” is the ur-model for all kinds of “suicide” attacks without sufficient knowledge of the “Kamikaze operation.” Hasty constructions of stereotypes of “suicide attacks” contribute to the formulation of the radical negativity of “Others,” and prevent us from working for peace in the world.

The talk is based on:

Kamikazes: Fleurs de Cerisier et Nationalismes: La Militarization de l’esthétique dans l’histoire du Japon. (2014). Institut d’Études Avancées de Paris - Hermann

Flowers that Kill: Communicative Opacity in Political Spaces (Stanford UP, 2015). (transl in Japanese [in process])

Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers (Chicago UP, 2006). (transl. in Polish, Russian, Portuguese, Urdu, Turkish [in process])

Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History (Chicago UP, 2002) (transl in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian)



Date dépassée
Japanese Emperors and Warlords: Symbolic Power in Comparative Perspective
04 avril 2016 - 30 juin 2016
30 juin 2016
Comparative Study of Aesthetic and Warefare
15 mai 2010 - 15 août 2010
15 août 2010
27 Jui 2016 19:00
Emiko Ohnuki Tierney,Emiko Ohnuki Tierney
Conférences, interventions et entretiens
Époque contemporaine (1789-...)
Asie de l’Est