Hesitating before the Judgment of History

TitleHesitating before the Judgment of History
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsBrook, T
JournalThe Journal of Asian Studies
Volume71
Pagination103
ISBN Number0021-9118
KeywordsMilitary history, War
Abstract

The ubiquitous experience of wartime collaboration in East Asia has not yet undergone the analysis that its counterpart in Europe has received. The difficulty has to do with the political legacies that the denunciation of collaboration legitimized, as well as the continuing hegemony of the discourse of nationalism. Both inhibitors encourage the condemnation of collaboration rather than its historicization. Reflecting briefly on the 1946 trial of Liang Hongzhi, China’s first head of state under the Japanese, this essay argues that the historian’s task is not to create moral knowledge, but to probe the presuppositions that bring the moral subject of the collaborator into being for us, and then ask whether real collaborators correspond to this moral subject. In the face of the natural impulse to render judgment, this essay argues for the wisdom of hesitation.

Journal of Asian Studies