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Puzzle Room Video

Comfort Women Panel

Sexual Slavery in the Wartime Japanese Empire:
The Historical Record and the Politics of Memory

A Panel of Concerned Scholars

Tuesday, April 28. 2015 at 7:00 pm.  SURC Ballroom, Central Washington University (Ellensburg, WA)

Preceded by a Performance Art Action: "Voices of the 'Comfort Women'" in the SURC pit from 6:00-7:00 pm. Students and concerned community members share testimony by those who were abducted and enslaved in the coercive wartime "Comfort Women" system.  Contact: Professor Jay Ball (Theater Arts) at

Detailed Panel Description: Recent months have seen public attempts to deny the suffering and exploitation of persons euphemistically termed “comfort women,” who were subjected to coerced sexual exploitation by and for the Japanese imperial military during the Second World War. This panel explores the historical evidence (including both written documentation and victims’ testimony) that a system tantamount to state-sponsored sexual slavery emerged during the war period. We also seek to place these dynamics in a broader, comparative exploration of gender and sexualized violence in World War II and other military conflicts, across regional and international boundaries.  Panelists consider as well recent efforts, some backed by the Japanese Foreign Ministry, to pressure scholars and textbook publishers in Japan, the United States, and elsewhere to refrain from researching and publishing on the full range of wartime atrocities directed against women in Asia and the Pacific. How are we to understand the current political struggles over remembrance and gendered violence in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond? What are our responsibilities as scholars and educators when documented historical atrocities are actively denied by those in power?

Short Description: Reputable historians agree that during World War II the Japanese Imperial military organized a system of sexual enslavement, encompassing military brothels and encampments across the Asia-Pacific theater of war. In recent years, however, there have been active attempts to rewrite history, to deny wartime state-sponsored sexual slavery, and to pressure scholars not to research or publish about the “Comfort Women” issue. This panel of scholars reviews the historical evidence about wartime sexual slavery and explores current struggles over historical memory, in the context of international attention to human rights, trafficking, and violence against women.

Moderator: Dr. Stacey Robertson, Dean, College of Arts and Humanities and Professor of History


  • Dr. Bang-Soon Yoon (Political Science)
  • Dr. Chong Eun Ahn (History)
  • Dr. Anne Cubilié  (Douglas Honors College)
  • Dr.  Yukiko Shigeto (Foreign Languages and Literatures, Whitman College)
  • Dr.  Davinder Bhowmik  (Asian Languages and Literature, University of Washington)
  • Dr. Justin Jesty (Asian Languages and Literature, University of Washington)
  • Dr. Mark Auslander (Anthropology and Museum Studies)

Panel Organizers:
Mark Auslander, (Anthropology and Museum Studies) &  Chong-Eun Ahn,   (History)

Details on Panelists, Moderator, and Organizers:

Dr. Chong-Eun Ahn (History, CWU) researches issues surrounding colonialism, modernity, ethnicity, labor migration, and empires, with an emphasis on East Asia. She has particular interest in how ethnic Koreans were treated as colonial subjects in the Japanese empire and then categorized as ethnic minorities in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). 

Dr. Mark Auslander (Anthropology and Museum Studies, CWU) studies the comparative politics of museums and historical memory and serves as director of the Museum of Culture and Environment at CWU.

Dr. Davinder Bhowmik  (Asian Languages and Literature, University of Washington) is a scholar of 20th and 21st century Okinawan literature and culture, with strong interests in history, memory and experiences of colonialism, war, and occupation.

Dr. Anne Cubilié directs the Douglas Honors College at CWU and has researched the relationship between women and state structures in times of crisis and in conflict zones. She has worked at the United Nations in humanitarian and development policy at United Nations headquarters and in the field.

Dr Justin Jesty (Asian Languages and Literature, University of Washington) works on film, visual culture, and the role of cultural production in political movements in postwar Japan.

Dr. Stacey Roberston (Dean of the College of Arts of Humanities, CWU), an historian of gender, slavery and abolitionism, serves as co-director of Historians against Slavery, and has strong interests in gender injustice and trafficking, past and present.

Dr. Yukiko Shigeto (Foreign Languages and Literatures, Whitman College) is a scholar of modern Japanese literature, intellectual history, and critical theory. She studied Japanese intellectual and cultural life during the prewar and wartime period.

Dr. Bang-Soon Yoon (Political Science, CWU) has published widely on gender, politics, and human rights in East Asia, and on Imperial Japan’s wartime military “Comfort Women.”

Office of the Dean of Arts and Humanities, the Women’s and Gender Studies Program, Department of World Languages  Asian and Pacific Islander Studies Program, Department of History,  Douglas Honors College, Department of Anthropology and Museum Studies. Department of Political Science,Museum of Culture and Environment.

For more information, please contact:
Mark Auslander, (Anthropology and Museum Studies)
Chong Eun Ahn,   (History)

Background resources include:

US Historians of Japan support Japanese Historians:

Rebutting Rightwing Claims on "Comford Women":

Background on Japanese Press Controversies re "Comfort Women":

Other Sources

Japan US Feminist Network for Decolonization: "CWU community responds"

CWU Observer (Student newspaper) article:




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