Sarah Kovner is Senior Research Scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University. She is author of Occupying Power: Sex Workers and Servicemen in Postwar Japan, a Choice Outstanding Academic Title.
A rigorous and wide-ranging study of Japan's treatment of POWs during WWII...This revisionist history adds essential nuance and depth to an emotionally charged subject. * Publishers Weekly * In this ambitious study, Kovner moves beyond threadbare tropes of bushido and surrender-as-shameful to persuasively argue that Japanese treatment of POWs during World War II varied greatly across time and space-and cannot be fully understood without the broader context of Japanese diplomacy with the West, propaganda and strategic considerations, and the breakdown of discipline and logistics as Japan's empire collapsed. Elegantly written and compulsively readable, this accessible narrative history will be of great interest to scholars and general readers alike. -- Nick Kapur, author of <i>Japan at the Crossroads: Conflict and Compromise after Anpo</i> In a major work of original scholarship, Kovner reveals that who lived and who died often resulted not from policy but incompetence-poor training, lack of planning, disregard for anything but military priorities. With impressive daring, she situates camp lives within the larger context of occupation policies, diplomacy, and international law, and describes the multiethnic world of hundreds of thousands of POWs, civilian internees including women and children, and guards in the Philippines, Singapore, Japan, and Korea. Prisoners of the Empire is a signal critical accomplishment. -- Sabine Fruhstuck, author of <i>Playing War: Children and the Paradoxes of Modern Militarism in Japan</i> Kovner reformats the complex 'morality play' depicted in Western history of prisoner of war suffering during World War II. Looking at the entirety of the Japanese empire at war, and focusing on the camps as locales within a cascade of battles for power, she challenges preconceptions that abuse stemmed solely from bushido ideals gone wrong or specific policies of cruelty. By comparatively investigating a vast range of experiences and geographic sites, Kovner overturns our stereotyped perceptions and challenges our understanding of POW history. -- Barak Kushner, author of <i>Men to Devils, Devils to Men: Japanese War Crimes and Chinese Justice</i> Prisoners of the Empire forces readers to rethink the morality-tale version of cruel Japanese treatment of Allied POWs. Kovner is unflinching in presenting harsh treatment by Japanese prison commanders or guards and unsparing in her attention to racism on all sides. Above all, she is clear-eyed in explaining how confusion and ignorance, more than consistent policy, shaped this tragic episode in the fog of war. -- Andrew Gordon, author of <i>A Modern History of Japan</i>