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Yukiko Koga
Phone (212) 772-5427

(On leave 2014-15)

Ph.D. Columbia University 2008; Assistant Professor
Political economy, historical anthropology, legal anthropology, law & human rights, urban space, colonial inheritance, post-colonial & post-imperial relations, history & memory, transnational East Asia (China and Japan)

My current research explores the generational transfer of unaccounted-for pasts stemming from Japanese imperialism in China. I inquire what it means for both Chinese and Japanese to come to terms with the Japanese imperialism more than sixty years after Japan’s original violence and injustice in China ended with the Japanese defeat and the disappearance of its empire in 1945, and how the introduction of the market economy in China has created a new dynamic concerning the contested yet under-explored past for both Chinese and Japanese. My first project takes place within a burgeoning economic sphere in Northeast China, while my second and third projects take place within a transnational legal sphere.

My book manuscript, Inheritance of Loss: The Political Economy of Redemption in China and Japan, explores how Chinese and Japanese post-generations encounter and confront catastrophic losses sustained through Japanese imperialism in China in the urban everyday of Northeast China. I argue that the introduction of the market-oriented economy in China has created a new dynamic concerning the contested yet underexplored past for both Chinese and Japanese. I look at Chinese municipal governments' attempts to harness the past through capitalizing on colonial remnants, and how post-generations re-encounter the past amidst changing cityscapes. By examining the dynamics of the reappearance of the past at the intersection of market and history, my book explores the workings of colonial inheritance as it is actively incorporated into today's urban landscapes as a form of capital. Inheritance of Loss argues that a political economy of redemption emerges from the everyday consumption of these newly reconfigured spaces. The book shows how the moral economy of seeking redemption for the unaccounted past is inexorably linked to the formal economy of exports, consumption, and the citywide pursuit of middle class dreams while revealing new forms of anxiety arising from inherited legacies of colonial modernity.

My second project, Accounting for Silence: (For)given Time and the Politics of Redress in China and Japan, is an ethnographic and historical exploration of compensation for Japanese wartime use of Chinese forced labor. Using historical, ethnographic, and legal analyses of archives, survivors’ testimonial practices, and the recent lawsuits seeking official apology and compensation, I examine how, in both Japan and China, the dramatic disappearance and reappearance of the survivors, the bodily remains of those who died, and their archival traces show an underlying debt economy––moral and monetary––in postwar Sino-Japanese relations. I elucidate how accounts and accounting address overdue responsibility for postwar generations and, against the background of generational shift and the changing balance of economic power between China and Japan, show how the crux of the issue has shifted from apology to inheritance and accountability. At the center of this inquiry is the role of the victims in the circulation of bodies that drives the economy of compensation. I enquire into the human, legal, and theoretical impact of accounting for silence in pursuit of the politics of redress.

My third project, Between the Law: The Unmaking of Empire Through Legal Redress in East Asia, provides legal and anthropological analyses of a series of postwar compensation lawsuits filed by Chinese and South Korean war victims against the Japanese government and corporations in the past two decades in Japanese, Chinese, and South Korean courts. I explore what it means to legally account for Japanese imperialism decades after the original violence. I examine an emergent transnational legal sphere, which, despite its emergence, reveals a legal lacuna in addressing issues arising from prolonged processes of unmaking of Japanese empire in East Asia over generations. This project is an exploration of after-empire in the legal sphere, where latent post-coloniality and post-imperiality intersect publicly to reveal what remains long after the official disappearance of empire.


Courses Taught:

  • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (ANTHC101)
  • Law and Anthropology (ANTH702.30/ANTHC320.75)
  • Anthropology of Violence [aka After Violence] (ANTHC321.66/HR321.00)
  • Anthropology of Urban China (ANTH730.00/ANTHC325.56)