The Merciful Camera: Democracy and Photography in Japan’s Atomic Age

History/Japan/Humanitarianism/Visual Culture/Politics

Photography is a tool of modern Japan's political imaginary. Analyzed as a civic craft rather than as art or documentary, photography reveals the architecture of social hope and its limitations, especially in trying to assimilate the horrific suffering from nuclear bombs, testing, and meltdowns within the bounds of social meaningfulness.

The skills I would like a research partner to have are: excellent Japanese and English language abilities; some knowledge of photography; and research skills with online databases, particularly the Reischauer Institute's Digital Archive of Japan's 2011 Disasters. It would be fabulous to have a research partner who could aid in collecting and translating Japanese primary and secondary sources, especially photography magazines. Ideally, they would also help to discover who holds copyright and how to reach them. (There are templates for this, and I can guide them.) I envision working with someone who would really enjoy the intellectual challenge of putting images and politics together.

I hope the student would come away with a keener understanding of US-Japan relations, especially as seen through the frame of atomic issues: 1) the atomic bombs of 1945 and later testing, 2) American use of depleted uranium weapons, and 3) the issue of nuclear power and the Fukushima disaster. I hope too that he or she would enjoy the challenges of working with the difficult medium of photography as a historical source.


2014–2015 research partnership opportunities