Comfort Women: The Legacy of Sexual Slavery in Asia

October 19-20, 2018

University of Pittsburgh

As a collaborative partnership between the Allegheny County Bar Association and the Asian Studies Center, the Comfort Women: The Legacy of Sexual Slavery in Asia conference will focus on the historical and legal aspects of sexual enslavement of women by the military in the years before and during World War II. Reaching beyond the actual historical events, the conference will explore the reasons for the long silence and how performance practices—protests, tribunals, theater, and memorial building projects are used to demand justice for those who suffered the state-sponsored acts of sexual violence both in Asia and here in America. The conference provides the framework for understanding how actions designed to bring about redress can shift from the legal aspects to its cultural and social possibilities.


OCTOBER 19, 2018

4:00 PM – 6:30 PM          Film Screening: Twenty Two (Guo Ke, 2017)

Introduction (Dr. Seung-hwan Shin) and a Q&A session

120 David Lawrence Hall


6:30 PM – 7:30 PM          Opening Reception

Brief remarks by UCIS / ASC

Lobby, David Lawrence Hall



OCTOBER 20, 2018

Alcoa Room, Barco Law School


8:00 AM – 9:00 AM:        Breakfast / Networking


9:00 AM – 10:30 AM       Panel Discussion: History and Legacy of Comfort Women

Moderator: Dr. Seung-hwan Shin, University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Peipei Qiu, Vassar College: “Concealed Atrocities: Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery in Occupied China”

Peipei Qiu is the Louise Boyd Dale and Alfred Lichtenstein Chair Professor of Vassar College and Chair of the college’s Department of Chinese and Japanese.  She received her M.A. from Peking University and M.Phil. and Ph.D. from Columbia University. Qiu is the recipient of a number of honors and grants, including National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, Mellon Foundation Grant, The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowship, Columbia University President’s Fellowship, The Japan Foundation Dissertation Research Fellowship, and The Japanese Foundation Fellowship for Researchers. She is the author of Bashô and the Dao: The Zhuangzi and the Transformation of Haikai (University of Hawai’i Press, 2005), Chinese Comfort Women:  Testimonies from Imperial Japan’s Sex Slaves (University of British Columbia Press, 2013; Oxford University Press, 2014; Hong Kong University Press, 2014), and a number of research articles in English, Japanese, and Chinese.

Dr. Joshua D. Pilzer, University of Toronto: “Listening to the Survivors of the ‘Comfort Women’ System”

Joshua D. Pilzer (Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology, University of Toronto) is a scholar of Korean and Japanese music. He is interested in the relations between music and traumatic experience in the texture of post-colonial Korean life, in the politics and aesthetics of the voice, in the relations between speech and song, and in the politics of listening. He is the author of Hearts of Pine: Songs in the Lives of Three Korean Survivors of the Japanese ‘Comfort Women’ (Oxford, 2012) and is currently finishing another ethnographic book on the musicality of everyday life among Korean victims of the atomic bombing of Japan and their children.


10:30 AM                             Coffee Break


11:00 AM – 12:30 PM     Roundtable: Legal Challenges and the Role of Diplomacy

Moderator: Dr. James Cook, University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Monica Eppinger, St. Louis University: “Becoming a Problem:  Comfort Women, Gender, and Diplomatic Time.”

Monica Eppinger is an anthropologist and legal scholar with interest in issues of sovereignty, territory, power, authority, and language.  Her research in these areas has spanned the geographic domains of the former Soviet space, Central Europe, Northeast Asia, and Guantanamo Bay.  Professor Eppinger's research has been funded by Fulbright-Hayes, National Science Foundation, Foreign Language and Area Studies, and Olin Law and Social Science fellowships.

Prof. Eppinger earned a law degree from Yale Law School in 2006 and a Ph.D. from the University of California Berkeley Department of Anthropology in 2010.  In prior work, Prof. Eppinger spent two years as a volunteer university instructor in Northeast China, earned an M.A. in International Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and then served in the U.S. diplomatic service from 1992-2001, working on furthering the prospects of peace, security, and bilateral relations.  For this work, she received a Superior Honor Award, the State Department's highest civilian honor.

Monica Eppinger served as chair of the Law and Anthropology section of the American Association of Law Schools in 2017 and as U.S. National Reporter in Property to the International Academy of Comparative Law in 2018.  She is currently an Associate Professor of Law and of Anthropology at Saint Louis University, tenured since 2016, and Co-Director of the Center for International and Comparative Law since 2017.  Her current book project focuses on the Ukrainian parliament, sovereignty, and crises of representation in liberal democracy.

Dr. Mary McCarthy, Drake University: “The Role of the State in ‘Comfort Women’ Diplomacy.”

Mary M. McCarthy is an associate professor of politics and international relations at Drake University in Des Moines, IA. She specializes in Japan’s domestic and foreign policies, and is editor of the Routledge Handbook of Japanese Foreign Policy. Her current research and most recent publications examine the historical legacies of the Asia-Pacific War on Japan’s foreign relations, with a particular focus on the “comfort women” issue. Dr. McCarthy is a Mansfield Foundation US-Japan Network for the Future Scholar and was a 2014 Japan Studies Resident Fellow at the East-West Center in Washington, DC. She received her B.A. in East Asian studies and her Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University.


12:30 PM – 2:00 PM        Lunch


2:00 PM – 4:00 PM          Film Screening: Her Story (Min Kyu-dong, 2018)

Introduction (Dr. Seung-hwan Shin) and a Q&A session