The Silenced Voices of Trauma: "Comfort Women" in Taiwan and Japan

E02 Monica Partridge Building, Hybrid event, University Park
Tuesday 7th May 2024 (13:00-14:30)

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The Silenced Voices 7 May 2024

The University of Nottingham's Taiwan Research Hub presents a talk by

Dr. Sachiyo Tsukamoto, The University of Newcastle, Australia and Dr. Shu-Hua Kang, National Taipei University, Taiwan

The Silenced Voices of Trauma: “Comfort Women” in Taiwan and Japan

Tuesday 7 May 2024, 1-2.30pm, Monica Partridge Building room E02,  University Park

Hybrid Event, lunch included

Talk abstract 

More than thirty years have passed since 14 August 1991, when the Korean survivor of the Japanese Imperial Military system of sexual slavery, Kim Hak-sun broke her almost half-a-century silence. Her courageous testimony about her ordeal as a so-called “comfort woman” (ianfu) made a significant contribution to the paradigmatic change in the representation of “comfort women” from prostitutes to sex slaves. Hak-sun’s breaking of silence also empowered many feminists and survivors across national borders to mobilise concerted efforts in pursuit of restoring justice and dignity to the surviving “comfort women”.

Nevertheless, both Taiwanese and Japanese victims have still faced multilateral exclusion from victimhood, the transnational justice movement, academic research and their own society in similar ways. The common thread that ties two these presentations together is the intersection of gender, sexuality and trauma. Tsukamoto introduces the narratives of trauma testified by two contrasting Japanese “comfort women” survivors, which reveal the density and magnitude of the gendered suffering inflicted upon “comfort women” survivors.

Through an innovative interdisciplinary study of the politics of gendered memory and trauma in a historical context, with numerous primary sources for analysis including diaries, interviews, letters and oral testimonies, this paper uncovers the life-or-death struggles of Japanese survivors in pursuit of public recognition as the victim of state violence against women. Kang further focuses on discussing how sexual trauma reportedly impacted Taiwanese comfort women survivors’ family formation and mothering, alongside the consequences on subsequent generations through the narratives of eight family members, including the second and third generations, of three deceased Taiwanese Han-Chinese ethnicity comfort women survivors.

Nevertheless, these families showed great strength and actively undertook their healing journey under challenging circumstances. Kang highlights the importance of providing culture-driven multilayered services for the families of comfort women survivors to foster intergenerational resilience.

About the speakers

Dr Sachiyo Tsukamoto completed her MA Course in Social and Global Justice at the University of Nottingham, UK in 2010, Dr. Sachiyo Tsukamoto was awarded a PhD in politics from The University of Newcastle, Australia in 2019. Currently, she is an honorary associate lecturer for the university, specialising in gender, war memory/history/trauma, and sexual violence in Asia. Previously, she worked with ALPHA Education in Toronto, Canada on the development of its future Asia-Pacific Peace Museum. She has also published several book chapters and journal articles. Her most recent publication entitled The Politics of Trauma and Integrity: Stories of Japanese “Comfort Women” (Routledge 2022) is a joint winner of the 2023 Carole Pateman Gender and Politics Book Prize awarded by the Australian Political Studies Associatio

Dr. Shu-Hua Kang is an assistant professor in the Department of Social Work at National Taipei University, Taiwan. Her research interests lie in exploring the impacts of early-life conflict-related sexual trauma on older survivors and their families and applying arts-based methods to marginalized older women. Her Ph.D. dissertation study, Taiwanese Comfort Women Survivors and Their Families: The Complexity of Identity, Motherhood, and Intergenerational Implications, explores the intergenerational realities of Taiwanese “comfort women” survivors and their offspring. Prior to the Ph.D. study, Dr. Kang was a long-time social worker and senior administrator working in the non-profit sector, promoting awareness of gender-based violence and the comfort women issue in Taiwan. She received her PhD from McGill University School of Social Work and holds an MSW from Columbia University and an MPPA from the University of Pittsburgh.

Chaired by

Dr Chun-yi Lee, Taiwan Research Hub, University of Nottingham

Taiwan Research Hub

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD