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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Negotiating the master narratives of prostitution, slavery, and rape in the testimonies by and representations of Korean sex slaves of the Japanese military (1932–1945)
by Murph, Karen S., Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2008, 331; 3341613
Abstract (Summary)

In spite of the political and historical controversy surrounding the testimonies of the Korean women forced to be sex slaves of and by the Japanese Military during the Asia Pacific War (1932-1945), their testimonies and allies' representations of them have not been analyzed from a sociolinguistic perspective. This study examines how the sex slave survivors, commonly referred to as "comfort women," and their advocates negotiate the competing master narratives (Mishler 1995; Talbot et al. 1996; Bamberg and Andrews 2004) of prostitution, slavery, and rape as they interdiscursively construct them/selves as reliable narrators and credible, prototypical (Rosch 1978; Givón 1989; Violi 2000) victims of sex slavery while refuting the adversarial discourse that postions them as liars and prostitutes.

The primary data were six videotaped interviews conducted in Korean by the Washington Coalition for Comfort Women, Inc., and later translated into English and published in Comfort Women Speak: Testimony by Sex Slaves of the Japanese Military (Schellstede 2000). I also examined representations of one of the interviewee's testimony in English in public discourse. Using the interview data, I examine how one survivor constructs herself as a reliable narrator using negation and explanation and her story as credible using involvement and evaluation strategies, such as sound words and constructed dialogue. I apply Labov's (2006) theory of narrative preconstruction to each survivor's testimony and examine overlap between the initiating event and scripts of prostitution, slavery, and rape. I find that when a survivor's testimony activates the prostitution script, she must explicitly refute it by denying she received payment. Finally, I show the ramifications of advocates' mis/representations of the women in public discourse.

The findings can inform all victims of sex slavery and those who advocate on their behalf as they illuminate the penalties of nonconformity to the master discourse governing the narrow and oppressive range of what comprises an appropriate or prototypical victim. This study contributes to the understanding of the delicate balance of framing the survivor as both agentive (empowered) and as a prototypical victim who, in this case, deserves an apology and compensation from the government of Japan.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hamilton, Heidi E.
Commitee: Schiffrin, Deborah, Tannen, Deborah
School: Georgetown University
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 69/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, History, Womens studies, Military history
Keywords: Comfort women, Japanese, Korean, Korean comfort women, Master narrative, Military, Military sex slave, Narratives, Prostitution, Rape, Sex slavery, Slavery
Publication Number: 3341613
ISBN: 978-0-549-97141-2
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