Jennifer Dixon’s Dark Pasts: Changing the State’s Story in Turkey and Japan (Cornell University Press, 2018), investigates the Japanese and Turkish states’ narratives of their “dark pasts,” the Nanjing Massacre (1937-38) and Armenian Genocide (1915-17), respectively. The official version of history initially advocated by both states was similar in its adherence to a strategy of silencing critics and relativizing or denying the massacre, but Dixon shows how the two governments’ narratives of their dark pasts have diverged. The book draws on a combination of extensive fieldwork and archival research to present a holistic picture not just of the narratives themselves but of the domestic and international factors influencing when and how those historical myths about such large-scale atrocities change over time. Dark Pasts argues that while international pressures exerted on state actors like Turkey and Japan can produce change in the official versions of events, it is domestic factors that shape the content of the new versions. Dixon’s work should be of interest to audiences not just in East Asian or Middle Eastern studies or political science, but also to those with particular concerns with historical memory.
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