Elizabeth Son, "Embodied Reckonings: 'Comfort Women,' Performance, and Transpacific Redress" (U Michigan Press, 2018)

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In a bustling city-center of Seoul, women in yellow vests protesting over the “final” resettlement between the Japanese and Korean governments every Wednesday is an iconic sight, testifying to the strength and resilience of the “comfort women” movement. In her award-winning book Embodied Reckonings: “Comfort Women,” Performance, and Transpacific Redress (University of Michigan Press, 2018), Elizabeth Son examines a long neglected aspect of the “comfort women” advocacy movement: embodied practices of the former “comfort women” and activists as they protest against the historical amnesia of sexual slavery. Through a transpacific framework, Son shows how the “comfort women” movement holds Asian American and Asian activists together as they collectively address America’s imperialist past and seek redress against militarized sexual violence. Son’s monograph takes the reader to the materiality, physicality, and aurality of the Wednesday demonstrations as the collective presence of former “comfort women” and activists refuse the label “post” of post-colonial, and counter the forced historical amnesia of “comfort women” history. Son further examines the testimonies of “comfort women” during the Women’s Tribunal, which was organized transnationally to highlight the failure of Tokyo Tribunal and other international organizations in recognizing sexual slavery as a crime. Transpacific redressive theater further critiques cultural amnesia, and transpacific memorials connect “comfort women” from formerly colonized nations as well as Japan to rise in solidarity against the universal atrocity of the war. In examining embodied aspects of transpacific redress of the “comfort women” movement, Son’s work asks important questions surrounding the limits/possibilities of transpacific alliances, historical erasure of sexual slavery and the violent legacy of militarized imperialism.

Elizabeth Son is Associate Professor and the Director of the Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Drama (IPTD) Program at Northwestern University. She was an inaugural Mellon/ACLS Scholars & Society fellow, and was a scholar-in-residence at KAN-WIN: Empowering Women in the Asian American Community. She continues to partner with KAN-WIN as a crisis hotline volunteer and co-founding member of their “comfort women” justice advocacy team.

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