The Comfort Women and the Silence Breakers: Memorialising Sexual Violence as Feminist Politics

Sexual violence, despite its devastating prevalence, has not often been represented in the memorials that populate public spaces across the world. At the current moment in time, however, when multiple sites across the globe are witnessing renewed struggles over the interpretation of sexual violence, as well as hard-fought debate around the values that should be represented in memorials, an increasing number of activist groups are choosing memorialisation as one way of claiming space and authority for their narratives around this form of harm. This research project analyses six such memorialisation projects in the contemporary USA, seeking to unpack the politics that underpin them, and the politics that they advance.

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The memorials

The empirical work of the project focuses on six memorial projects located across the USA. Three commemorate peacetime sexual violence in the contemporary US itself. The other three are dedicated to the so-called comfort women of the Asia-Pacific War: an estimated 50,000-200,000 young women, mostly although not entirely from Korea, compelled into sexual servitude by the Imperial Japanese military.

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