n De Arte - The politics of shame : the Glendale Comfort Women Memorial and the complications of transnational commemorations

Volume 53 Number 2-3
  • ISSN : 0004-3389
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Since 2010, Korean-American communities, with the support of local governments, have sponsored ten “comfort women” memorials throughout the United States. This study focuses on the memorial statue dedicated in Glendale, California as a case study for the contentious politics of “comfort women” commemorations in distinctly American contexts. Dedicated in 2013, the Glendale Comfort Women Memorial became enmeshed in a heated controversy that resulted in a federal court case. Animated by the powerful affect of shame, the debate in which this memorial was embroiled reveals the desire to lay claim to memory on a geopolitical stage, engaging issues of gender and ethnic identities and global politics. This article argues that the Glendale Comfort Women Memorial demonstrates the ways memorials in a globalised society can be employed to assign moral culpability outside of official governmental channels and disseminate histories of oppression that might previously have been forgotten. In doing so, the memorial and the public controversy that ensued also expose the limits and complications of transnational commemorations in foreign settings.

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