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Suzuki, Michiko (2019) History of Disaster, Recovery, and Humanitarianism : The Japanese Red Cross Society in the Modern World, 1877-1945. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis explores the wartime humanitarian relief activities of the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) personnel and their involvement in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement between 1877 and 1945. Most historiographies of the Red Cross have been dominated by a Western-centric narrative of humanitarianism, while they have marginalised the history of the Red Cross’ Islamic world co-institution the Red Crescent. Scholarship to date portrays the Red Cross as a Christian-based charity organisation, inseparable from its origins in mid-19th century European imperialism without sufficient scrutiny of the significant contributions of Red Cross organisations that co-emerged across the non-Western world. This thesis investigates a historical paradox that defined the JRCS of the interwar and wartime era. It argues that a significant minority of individuals working within the JRCS, a quasi-Imperial state institution, nevertheless sought to uphold the humanitarian mission of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Even amidst the inhumanity of total war, individual JRCS practitioners strived to perform their professional duty to care for the patient in front of them regardless of race, nationality or military status. This thesis also locates a robust oral history narrative of those individuals who chose to work for the Red Cross in the face of extreme risks, and examines the extent to which the Japanese notion of ‘humanitarianism (jindō: 人道 )’, literally meaning ‘the way of humanity’ in Japanese, influenced the evolution of the modern global humanitarian movement. It recasts significant institutional narratives of events surrounding the formation of the League of Red Cross Societies in 1919, the 15th International Conference of the Red Cross in Tokyo of 1934, the activities of the Manchukuo Red Cross Society, the personal sacrifices and professional labours of the Red Cross battlefield nurses, JRCS care for POWs and civilian internees, and JRCS emergency responses to the nuclear bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Christopher Gerteis
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2020 10:57

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