Atomic memory : theorizing post-racial memory and trauma in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum



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Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, established in 1955, remains the primary site for recuperating and transforming memories of the atomic bombing into a message for global peace. Within the museum’s transcendental politics, American and European visitors are a key presence, evident in the site’s 1994 renovation adding historical context for the bombings, its design as a bilingual space using both Japanese and English, and in its refusal to criticize the United States for their use of the bomb. However, what remains excluded from this global view is a discussion of race, a critical dimension of U.S.-Japanese relations and Pacific Rim colonialism during and after World War II. This thesis utilizes scholarship on cultural memory and cultural trauma to interrogate how the museum has been constructed as a site of post-racial politics. In examining the mechanics of this space, this thesis focuses on the “objects” that the museum describes as “material witnesses,” to interrogate the historical links between Orientalism and cultural trauma. Through a theoretical development of my fieldwork in Hiroshima in 2011, analysis of the space, and relevant literature, I argue that the gaze of Western tourism is fundamental in the construction of Hiroshima as a global, peaceful, and post-racial experience for museum visitors.