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Japan, Global History, and the Great Silence


Dusinberre, Martin (2017). Japan, Global History, and the Great Silence. History Workshop Journal, 83(1):130-150.

Abstract

A young Japanese woman called Usa Hashimoto disembarks on Thursday Island, Queensland, in September 1897. Two months later, she briefly recounts her story to a British colonial official. What does her testimony mean for the way we write global history? Who, indeed, are the ‘we’ in global history? This experimental essay, divided into ten parts, revisits the question of ‘silence’ in history in order to argue that structure, form and writing style should be key tools in the struggle to hear voices from the past. Bringing W.G. Sebald, Greg Dening, Minoru Hokari, Julie Otsuka and Virginia Woolf into dialogue with each other, I suggest that global history demands new forms of writing. To illustrate my point, I draw on literary techniques of framing, sequencing, intertextuality and juxtaposition in an attempt to trace what I call the ‘moving first person’ in Hashimoto’s testimony. Whether my particular constellation works or not is for readers to judge; but at the very least, I would be happy if this one experiment also sparked others.

Abstract

A young Japanese woman called Usa Hashimoto disembarks on Thursday Island, Queensland, in September 1897. Two months later, she briefly recounts her story to a British colonial official. What does her testimony mean for the way we write global history? Who, indeed, are the ‘we’ in global history? This experimental essay, divided into ten parts, revisits the question of ‘silence’ in history in order to argue that structure, form and writing style should be key tools in the struggle to hear voices from the past. Bringing W.G. Sebald, Greg Dening, Minoru Hokari, Julie Otsuka and Virginia Woolf into dialogue with each other, I suggest that global history demands new forms of writing. To illustrate my point, I draw on literary techniques of framing, sequencing, intertextuality and juxtaposition in an attempt to trace what I call the ‘moving first person’ in Hashimoto’s testimony. Whether my particular constellation works or not is for readers to judge; but at the very least, I would be happy if this one experiment also sparked others.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of History
Dewey Decimal Classification:900 History
Language:English
Date:11 April 2017
Deposited On:21 Jul 2017 12:20
Last Modified:21 Jul 2017 12:20
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1363-3554
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1093/hwj/dbx012

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