Accepted Paper:

Cartography of trauma and semiotic re-territorialization of memory: a case of two miracle pine trees in post-disaster Japan  

Author:

Ryo Morimoto (Brandeis University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines two commemorative symbols of 3.11 as the records of traumatic experiences on the one hand, and two circulations of the sign process in 3.11 on the other hand, in order to analyze uneven significations of objects that have the same name.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines two commemorative symbols of the Great East Japan Disaster (3.11). It focuses on the emanation of those objects as the records of traumatic experiences on the one hand, and two circulations of the sign process in 3.11 on the other hand, in order to analyze uneven significations of objects that have the same name. The first object is the sole surviving pine tree in Kashima ward, Minamisoma city, Fukushima prefecture that was discreetly ordinated, two and a half years after 3.11, as the "miracle pine tree." The second object is the now famous miracle pine tree in Rikuzen Takata, Iwate prefecture, which through the process of re-animation after its physical death has become the touristic commemorative symbol of both miracle and hope after 3.11. Unlike the latter, the local preservation group of the former describes the value of this particular tree to be its vitality and locality that stands outside of, although simultaneously concretizing, the governmentally regimented "invisible walls" of the 30 km radiation arcs. In the city that stretches out between the mechanically drawn circles on the map, this miracle pine tree is intended to commemorate against the invisible re-territorializing walls dividing the local community. Juxtaposing the two "miracle" trees and their intended significations, the paper analyzes how large-scale disasters are both nationally and locally experienced and memorized via socially constructed alibis of the past; in so doing, it also assesses the semiotic re-territorialization of memory via sketching a cartography of trauma.

Panel P118
Mourning, memorialization and recovery in post-disaster contexts