Memories of New Left protest

Steinhoff, Patricia G. GND

Collective memory studies generally focus on national commemorations of heroes and heroic events that unify nations. Recent research also examines the contribution of negative collective memories that vilify individuals and organizations, and collective memories that remain in contention. This study examines the contending collective memories that surround the protest cycle of the late 1960s to early 1970s Japan through analysis of three key events: the First Haneda Incident of 8 October 1967; the climactic battle between Zenkyōtō students and riot police on the Tokyo University campus 17–18 January 1969; and the Asama Sansō siege and Rengō Sekigun purge of early 1972. A heavily negative view of the entire period has solidified in public collective memory through commemorative media presentations and films that recycle visual images of the protests into a blur of senseless violence without explanation of its causes. This overwhelmingly negative collective memory reinforces the dominant values of social order while suppressing the underlying issues that sparked the protests. Those who experienced the period as student participants also view the outcomes as negative, but they keep alive more positive memories of their youthful participation in protest events and the issues that motivated them, through nostalgic commemorations and media that circulate within a New Left subculture.