Comparativ 31 (2021), 1

Comparativ 31 (2021), 1
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Re-Education Revisited: Conflicting Agendas and Cross-Cultural Agency in the Early Cold War

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Organization name
Comparativ. Zeitschrift für Globalgeschichte und Vergleichende Gesellschaftsforschung
Comparativ Universität Leipzig Leipzig Research Centre Global Dynamics IPF 348001 Ritterstrasse 24 04109 Leipzig GERMANY e-mail:
Matthias Middell

Re-Education Revisited: Conflicting Agendas and Cross-Cultural Agency in the Early Cold War, edited by Heike Paul

Table of contents

Matthias Middell / Katja Castryck-Naumann, pp. 7–8.


Heike Paul: Introduction, pp. 9–15.

Fabian Schäfer: Quizzes and Questionnaires: Learning to Play Democracy under US Occupation in Germany and Japan, pp. 16–38.

Re-educating “the Japanese” and “the Germans” after the war had ended was not merely a political or educational undertaking; it was also a cultural one. Directly influenced by the thought and therapeutic methods of rather new academic disciplines such as social psychology, psychotherapy, and anthropology, reeducation (or “reorientation”) was understood as the un- learning of (allegedly “pathological”) cultural or behavioural patterns. Besides the necessity to reform educational institutions, the mass media was assigned a pivotal role in purging these old totalitarian patterns, and instead teaching the new liberal-democratic and capitalist values. Acknowledging the paradox of training entire societies in liberalist values such as “freedom”, “fair play”, or “individualism” in times of a top-down military occupation, methods of mediated “participation” were considered an appropriate and “playful” way of training these new values. In particular, these methods included participatory broadcasting formats (e.g., street interviews and quiz shows) and opinion surveys commissioned by the military governments, conducted by newspaper companies or newly founded opinion research institutes in Japan and Germany.

Akino Oshiro: From Farm to Base: Post-War Economic Rehabilitation and the Emergence of the Base Worker in US-Occupied Okinawa, pp. 39–51.

Military work in Okinawa is the symbol of US occupation in the post-war period. Existing scholarship sheds light on the details of the regime of military work, the participation of the local population in this regime, and the impact of the military economy on the local community. This paper, however, revisits the history of military work by prioritizing a postcolonial viewpoint with a focus on the emergence of military work and on how the US propagated their efforts towards economic recovery through Shurei no Hikari, a community magazine published in post-war Okinawa. It argues that military work symbolizes the commodification of what can be described as “surplus population” that the US during the Cold War relied on in its pursuit of anti-Communist activities. Focusing on the structure of military work and its impact on the local population, my argument is twofold. First, I argue that the US occupation expropriated Okinawans’ indigenous land and means of production for the sake of an expansion of US military installations, and thus produced a colonial surplus population that they mobilized as a labour force for Cold War military activity. Second, it reveals how the commodification of the local labour force in the context of military work was justified by a pacification of US occupation activities.

Katharina Gerund:Re-Education and the Construction of Whiteness in the US Military, pp. 52–65.

This article examines processes of re-education with regard to their racial regimes epitomized in discourses on race and racism in the US military toward the end of World War II and during the early days of the US-American presence in post-war Germany. It teases out the role of whiteness and white privilege, which is constructed via-à-vis a black Other, at the centre of the US military mission in Europe (and beyond) and shows how the war effort and the (planning of) the occupation and re-education/reorientation of Germany prompted a reflection on racial inequality within the US Army (and US society at large). This potential of internal reform and self-conscious re-education under the guise of managing manpower and bolstering efficiency abroad, however limited in its actual influence on mitigating racism and challenging white he- gemony, bespeaks the (unintended) effects of re-education at home, even prior to the official programmes targeting the German population.

Jana Aresin: Locating Women’s Political Engagement: Democracy in Early Cold War US and Japanese Women’s Magazines, 1945–1955, pp. 66–81.

How did US capitalist democracy become a model to be ‘exported’ around the world during the Cold War, and how did this impact US society and the countries exposed to these ‘democratizing’ efforts? The article approaches this question with a focus on gender and democracy by comparing texts from US and Japanese women’s magazines published between 1945 and 1955. The post-war development of women’s rights in Japan is often examined in the context of the US occupation’s ‘democratizing’ policies, yet it was more complex than a ‘liberation’ from above and influenced by local women’s groups of various political beliefs, intellectuals, and activists. At the same time, women in the US also faced a changing society after the war. The article aims to untangle the complex set of influences and narratives informing the discourse around women and democracy, outline parallels and differences between both countries, and examine the potential transfer of ideologies and narratives across national borders.

Michiko Takeuchi: Occupied Imperial Women: Japanese Feminists Making the US “Liberation of Japanese Women” Their Own Cold War Propaganda, pp. 82–101.

On 25 August 1945, ten days after the defeat, Japanese feminists gathered to discuss suffrage and the US occupation of Japan (1945–1952). They worked with American women that resulted in drastic legal changes for Japanese women. Previous scholarship with an approach of occupier and occupied based on race has given the impression that these Japanese women were secondary actors in the policymaking. By analyzing overshadowed aspects of Japanese feminists’ extensive activist backgrounds, their superior attitude towards the American occupiers, and their anti-prostitution efforts, this article not only argues that post-war policies relating to Japanese women represented Japanese feminists’ prewar colonial notions but that these feminists took advantage of “democratic” American domination to implement policies rooted in Japanese feminist movements from the 1870s forward. Turning the US occupation’s “liberation of Japanese women” into their own propaganda, Japanese feminists led the creation of bilateral US-Japan domination in the Cold War Pacific.

Susan Carruthers, Mire Koikari, Heike Paul: A Conversation about Two Occupations, p. 102–121.

This conversation of two of the most renowned scholars of Cold War historiography and occupation studies, Susan Carruthers (University of Warwick) and Mire Koikari (University of Hawai‘i) with Heike Paul (FAU Erlangen-Nuernberg and guest editor of this issue), took place virtually on 29 January 2021 across multiple time zones. It has been transcribed, edited, and abridged for this volume. The exchange sheds light on important topics in the larger field of post-war studies on Japan and Germany, contextualizes historical debates, and discusses pertinent issues for future scholarship.

Literature Notes

Corinna R. Unger: Neue europäische Geschichte(n) wagen, pp. 122–129.

Besprechung der Reihe Making Europe: Technology and Transformations, 1850–2000. Hrsg. von Johan Schot und Philip Scranton, 6 Bände, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013–2019.

Book Reviews

Henner Kropp: Russlands Traum von Amerika: Die Alaska-Kolonisten, Russland und die USA, 1733–1867, Göttingen 2020
by Luise Fast, pp. 130–133.

Moritz Brescius: German Science in the Age of Empire. Enterprise, Opportunity and the Schlagintweit Brothers, Cambridge 2019
by Marie de Rugy, pp. 133–135.

Mulugeta Gebrehiwot Berhe: Laying the Past to Rest. The EPRDF and the Challenges of Ethiopian State-Building, London 2019
by Ulf Engel, pp. 135–138.

Casey Marina Lurtz: From the Ground Up. Building an Export Economy in Southern Mexico, Stanford 2019
by Mark Wassermann, pp. 138–140.

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