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Give back peace that will never end: Hibakusha poets as public intellectuals
journal contributionposted on 2015-06-08, 00:00 authored by Cassandra AthertonCassandra Atherton
US censorship of public discussion of the bombings during the Allied Occupation of Japan ensured that the Japanese public knew little about the human consequences of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When hibakusha poets seek a public audience for their poetry, their experiences make them potentially powerful public intellectuals. As Noam Chomsky has observed, the most effective public intellectuals are dissidents who act from the margins. Tōge Sankichi and Kurihara Sadako became activists and their poetry offers a powerful and rousing response to the atomic bombing and lobbies for nuclear disarmament. The simplicity and accessibility of these poems is essential to the public dissemination of their message and Kurihara’s and Tōge’s identification as public intellectuals. This article examines the ways in which hibakusha poets can be recognised as public intellectuals when they seek public audiences for their work. Discussion hinges on a number of considerations centred on public intellectualism, trauma and the uses of language.