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Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II …

The Recreation and Amusement Association was therefore an attempt to carry forward a long-standing system into a new context. Its collapse and the emergence of the independent panpan therefore marked the collapse of a deeply-rooted tradition of social management, and the explosive assertion of an intensely suppressed current of 'deviant' behaviour. In consequence, in the case of prostitution, the 'subculture of defeat' probably carried even deeper and more charged significance than Dower allows. While many histories have demonstrated the remarkable continuities of Japanese bureaucratic administration through the Occupation, here at least was one quite decisive reversal.

Review: John Dower’s Embracing Defeat: Japan in the …
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Japan's experience of defeat and occupation at the end of the Second World War has most commonly been examined from the point of view of the conquerors. It has rarely been tackled as a Japanese experience. But, in this massively researched and beautifully illustrated book, John Dower attempts to understand the hopes, visions and dreams (as well as the hopelessness and exhaustion) of the defeated Japanese as they sought to remake their identity and values in the aftermath of war. He probes a kaleidoscopic array of Japanese responses and their contradictions: guilt and giddy liberation, selective forgetting, iconoclasm, new hopes and old disillusions. And he places them against the background of an American Occupation which was at once high-minded and visionary, arrogant and imperialist.

Review: John Dower’s Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II
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Firstly, he investigates the 'subcultures of defeat'. The world of prostitution under the Occupation, for example was simultaneously an arena of sexual exploitation and a channel for the growth of interracial affection and the undermining of old racial stereotypes. It was a symbol of national shame and a conduit for new American values of luxury, hedonism, and materialism that were eagerly embraced. Likewise, the black markets were both explosions of entrepreneurial energy and a site for violent criminal gangs. And a new urban demimonde channeled nihilism and hardship into lifestyles of deliberate decadence and a flourishing milieu of pulp literatures which posed forceful challenges to traditional social and sexual roles. Dower has dug deeply to reveal 'the bittersweet ambiance of life on the margins in a defeated land'.

Embracing Defeat: A Book Analysis - EssayLeaks
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