Topics in Law and Literature: Reparations and Human Rights
The totalizing violence of World War II is considered the origin of a new concept of human being and a new discourse of human rights after genocide and nuclear holocaust. Our seminar will interrogate this history in the context of Cold War Asia and through the critical framework of reparations. Reparation is a key term in political theory, but it is also a central concept in psychoanalysis (specifically, object relations theory), yet the two are rarely discussed in relation to one another. This class will explore links between political and psychic genealogies of reparation to consider how they supplement one another in theories of the human being and discourses of human rights. How does attention to this crossing help us understand better the limits of repairing war, violence, colonialism, and genocide in context of the trans-Pacific? In this regard, we will be studying not only political and psychoanalytic theory but also a series of novels, memoirs, and films concerning the internment of Japanese Americans by the U.S. government during World War II; the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ending that war; and contemporary legal claims by “comfort women,” young girls and women conscripted into sexual slavery by the Japanese military.