Wars, Wrongs, and Revenge: What is to be done?

A/Prof. Jane Munro1

1The University Of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Wars, wrongs, and revenge: This paper questions the efficacy of national apologies as a true force for peace and questions the well-intentioned but misguided desire for ‘reconciliation’ between wrongful actors and their victims. Forces of geopolitics have created frameworks for cooperation between some past national enemies, while these same forces militate against open cooperation between others. Repeated, simplistic demands for Japanese apologies for the wrongs of the Japanese Empire prior to and including World War II ignore the existence of actual apologies. These very demands can seem to suggest that those who repeatedly refer to a ‘failure to apologise’ are unaware of the bigger picture of relations between Japan and its many neighbours and the Europeans during the 20th century. They also fail to acknowledge the lack of apologies from other imperial players such as Great Britain and the USA. Taking a comparative approach to national apologies, this paper refers to these in Australia (particularly the national apology to indigenous Australians 2008) as well as Japan, Germany, and the USA. Words, deeds, and the role of national identity and national memory are the drivers of this paper.


Jane Munro originally researched Japanese language and literature at the University of Sydney and Harvard University (PhD).  She has lectured at Sydney in the Faculty of Arts and at UNSW in the Faculty of Commerce and has had considerable involvement in areas of social policy in Australia at a state and federal level in areas of media, language and education, migrant affairs, and education.  At present in an honorary role at the University of Melbourne, her most recent position was Head of College at International House at the University of Melbourne.  Past work on intercultural communication and comparative literature, together with a keen interest in Australia-Japan relations as well as Australia-regional relations leads her to reconsider the geopolitics of international wars and the pursuit of peace.  She applies a critical lens to commentary in the English speaking world about Japan and Asian relations today and in the past.



The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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