Prospecting the Ruins: The History, Memory, and Visual Culture of the Japan Air Raids

Collaborative Group

Dr. David Fedman, Professor Cary Karacas


Political Science and Global Affairs


“Prospecting the Ruins” examines the visual culture of the firebombing of urban Japan as revealed through five principal sets of images generated by the air war in the Pacific: maps, photographs, cartoons, films, and art. Blending research methods from history, geography, and visual studies, historian David Fedman and geographer Cary Karacas trace the production, circulation, and consumption of each set of images as they were transformed from products of total war into objects of memorialization. Their analysis not only will elucidate how visual materials facilitated the targeting and destruction of 66 different Japanese cities during World War II, but also will reveal the distinctive ways in which this imagery has shaped the postwar politics of war memory on both sides of the Pacific. By integrating the full range of imagery into their study—and by assessing the explanatory promise and pitfalls of each medium—Fedman and Caracas seek above all else to challenge readers to more carefully consider how visual media shape our ability to comprehend mass violence, bodily trauma, and the civilian experience of modern war. Such an approach builds on five years of collaborative research between Fedman and Karacas, who have coauthored numerous publications on the topic and together maintain, a bilingual digital archive dedicated to the international dissemination of information about the aerial bombing of Japan. Their research will result in the publication of a coauthored book on the topic. Award period: January 1, 2019 through July 31, 2020