Uses of the Future: The Problem of Theodicy in Nagasaki

Monday, July 14, 2014: 6:45 PM
Room: Harbor Lounge B
Distributed Paper
Yu FUKUDA , Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan
How is it possible to construct a meaning for the collective trauma among various social groups? This paper explores how people in Nagasaki respond to the collective suffering of the atomic bomb attack through a different approach to the problem of theodicy. The paper focus on the religious mode of theodicy which can be seen among the catholic community on one hand, and “tragic mode of theodicy” (Simko 2012) observed at the Nagasaki City Atomic Bomb Memorial Ceremony on the other, to investigate a way to deal with collective suffering in contemporary public arena. Urakami, ground zero of the bombing, was one of the residential areas for catholic communities that historically have suffered discrimination in Nagasaki. Immediately after the bombing, religious theodicy could be seen among the community that attempts teleologically to interpret the collective suffering as a “burnt offering” by providence. Although the catholic community found solace in this theodicy at that point, it was later criticized in public not only because it acquits the responsible of the bombing but it also creates semantic conflicts among a variety of social groups that were affected. In contrast with the theodicy of the catholic community, narratives of suffering observed in the municipal commemoration was not giving any meaning based on religious worldview. Rather, it makes a way to deal with contingency of the suffering potentially in the future by realization of the ideal of the “world peace” and “abolition of nuclear weapons.” 68 years after the attack, the latter mode of theodicy is predominant in most of the public commemorations of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack. It is implied that the secular mode of theodicy oriented toward the future is more prevalent in contemporary Japanese society than the religious mode of theodicy that justifies the past.