Workshop: Heritage from the margins? Shuri Castle and the Politics of Memory

Friday 5 March 17:00-21:40 JST (08:00-12:40 GMT)

Saturday 6 March 09:00-11:00 JST (23:00-01:00 GMT)

Free booking – register here

Full programme below

On 5-6 March 2021, Kyushu University will host a workshop devoted to examining the ongoing memorial contestation over Shuri Castle in Okinawa, and its place within regional, national, and global narratives of meaning making.

The castle is both a site of Japanese cultural heritage and of Ryukyuan remembrance and identity, and thus sits at the intersection of different heritage communities. Materially, it consists of the former palace of the Ryukyuan state reconstructed atop the ruins of the Japanese Imperial Army’s headquarters on the island. Prior to the rebuilding of the castle, the site housed the University of the Ryukyus – built by the US as a symbol of Okinawa’s revival. Shuri Castle is cut through by borders of memory.

Recent debates concerning the castle’s reconstruction following a fire in late 2019 provide an opportunity to re-examine its history, and the multiple meanings invested in the site by local residents, the prefectural administration of Okinawa, the Japanese government, international bodies, and other stakeholders.

The workshop will bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars from institutions in Okinawa, Japan, and worldwide in order to discuss the history and politics surrounding Shuri Castle and its status as heritage. In a number of interrelated conversations, our distinguished speakers will approach Shuri Castle from a variety of chronological and disciplinary perspectives, addressing such questions as:

  • the significance of material sites of memory becoming affective symbols for communities;
  • why the creation of sites as heritage produces material and symbolic spaces able to stand at the intersection of various memory collectives, and;
  • how the various scales at which the multiple, complex meanings of these sites are narrated impact the material site itself.

Considering the significance of the involvement of transnational heritage regimes on local sites of memory, the event will also add to our understanding of the operation of contested memorial spaces, the place of Okinawa in contemporary Japan, and how memories are made, materialized and memorialized within and across societies.

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