Barak Kushner is Reader in modern Japanese history in the Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (formerly the Faculty of Oriental Studies) at the University of Cambridge and has a PhD in History from Princeton University. He has written three books: Men to Devils, Devils to Men: Japanese War Crimes and Chinese Justice (Harvard University Press, 2015); Slurp! A culinary and social history of ramen – Japan’s favorite noodle soup (Brill, 2012), awarded the 2013 Sophie Coe Prize for Food History, the longest-running and most generous prize for writing in food history in the English language; and The Thought War – Japanese Imperial Propaganda (Hawaii 2006). He recently finished running a large translation project, with 6 graduate students, of a book which examines the intersection of media, history and politics entitled Media, Propaganda and Politics in 20th-Century Japan. As a scholar he has written on wartime Japanese and Chinese propaganda, Japanese media, Sino-Japanese relations, humor, food history, BC class war crimes, and the Cold War. Currently, he is working on a monograph concerning postwar East Asian history, and a second volume about war crimes in East Asia, tentatively entitled The Construction of Justice in East Asia and the Search for Legitimacy. Barak also co-edited a volume about Japan’s lost decades with former Asahi Shimbun editor-in-chief, Funabashi Yoichi, entitled Examining Japan’s Lost Decades. He assisted in this several year-long project at the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation in Tokyo by managing the research group and editorial process, as well as helping to lead the international conference. In March 2013 he launched a 5-year European Research Council funded project, “The Dissolution of the Japanese Empire and the Struggle for Legitimacy in Postwar East Asia, 1945–1965.” This 5-year grant will examine the impact of the fall of the Japanese empire in East Asia. The project manages several postdoctoral research associates and offered two full scholarships to PhD students in an effort to investigate this important historical moment. In the summer of 2008 he was a visiting scholar at Nanjing University (China) and during 2009 he was a visiting scholar at Waseda University (Japan). Previously, Kushner worked in the US Department of State as a political officer in East Asian affairs and taught Chinese and Japanese history at Davidson College in North Carolina, USA.
The Korean War signified deep change in East Asia. Unlike World War Two, when the Allies solidly defeated the Japanese, the war on the Korean peninsula (1950-1953) finished in what can best be described as a standoff. While military conflict announced the end of peace, social mobilization campaigns geared up to reorient the Chinese, Japanese, and American populations toward new goals commensurate with the ensuing cold war. The era witnessed a dramatic shift in propaganda plans where the World War Two focus on combating oppressive colonialism gave way to postwar campaigns built on images and rhetoric that referenced legal precedence and the pursuit of justice. The Korean War was the first time the Chinese Communist Party engaged a major enemy outside of its borders and thus it was new China’s first modern war. It was also the first time in the modern era where China was not directly in confrontation with Japan. Japan did not deploy military troops nor did it stand up its own army and navy during the war. In fact it had no official forces. For Japan the summer of 1950 was the first time in virtually a century that the Japanese military did not play a decisive role in a war within East Asia. This moment was a great reversal of fortune that would alter how each nation conceived of its new position in East Asia and the world. My Abe fellowship project will analyze the manner in which the Chinese, Japanese and Americans used the outbreak of the Korean War in their domestic and foreign propaganda to engage in new cold war policies and to solidify support for their camps. Igarashi Takeshi, in Nichibei kankei to higashi Ajia, argues that the cold war was a superpower struggle to reorder a decolonized Asia according to its own wishes. Within that paradigm I maintain that the war was the first test of these foreign policies China, the United States, and Japan employed within an East Asian framework now redrawn after Japanese defeat and the nascent collapse of colonialism. On the battlefield but also at the home front and abroad, each of these countries aimed to create a new international image for themselves. World War Two propaganda campaigns, about which I have written in my first book, focused on demonizing the other or showcasing the modernity of the home nation. During the Korean War propaganda goals in Asia propagated the idea of “humanity and justice.” Each nation tried to prove its level of “justness” by illustrating their proper and legal pursuit of Japanese war criminals.