The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum attracts over 1 million visitors each year. At the same time, this site is widely acknowledged as a major landmark for constructions of postwar Japanese identity and its lopsided historical consciousness.
Despite this prominent position, an indepth historical analysis of the museum is yet amiss and inquiries into the museum often fail to see beyond the surface of today’s exhibition. This research project aims at exploring the historically complex development of the museum: What story about the past did the museum tell and how did it change over the course of time? Who influenced the museum and what were their goals? How did the discourse about the museum, its goals, and its key concepts, i.e. peace, commemoration and the atomic bomb, change?
Through a discourse analysis of the museum, the project delineates the historical contingencies and often contested nature of Hiroshima memory. It further contributes to understanding Hiroshima commemoration beyond the scope of national identities, as a social and economic as well as political and ethical project that was deeply embedded in local and international agendas. The project thereby allows for including the so far neglected assessments of modernity, which were inextricably tied to commemorating the bomb.
Stefanie Schäfer studied Japanese Studies, Comparative Literature, and Cultural Studies at Eberhard-Karls-University Tübingen and at Cornell University. Currently, she is a Ph.D. candidate at Free University Berlin.