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date: 17 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the politics of collective memory and attribution theory by studying expert and popular beliefs in Japan about the 1937–1938 Nanking Massacre. Memory, when conceived as a product of political conflict, assumes pluralistic and centralized forms. Multiple memories emerge out of a context of cross-cutting interests, coalitions, power networks, and enterprises, as seen in the fate of artistic and presidential reputations, Holocaust commemoration, place-naming, monument-making, and the organization of museums. After discussing the assumptions underlying the politics of memory and attribution theory, the article considers two theories in light of the Nanking debates: the first relates history and memory to power struggles, whereas the second subsumes these struggles under conflicting causal attributions. It also looks at three carrier groups that participate in the Nanking memory war, and particularly in debates over Japan’s moral responsibility for crimes committed in Nanking: maximalists, revisionists, and centrists.

Keywords: collective memory, attribution theory, Japan, Nanking Massacre, political conflict, politics of memory, moral responsibility, maximalists, revisionists, centrists

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