From Housewife to Historical Actor
What makes an "ordinary" person into a historical figure? What process transforms the materials we all accumulate and create in our daily life into a historical archive?
In February 2017, I first met a woman named Matsuo Keiko in the former coal-mining town of Omuta, in Kyushu, Japan. She insisted (still insists) that she is an ordinary woman, but the way that she painstakingly built her own personal archive during struggled to gain recognition for her husband's carbon monoxide poisoning in a 1963 in explosion and as a self-professed challenge to the official archives of state and industry authorities, fascinated me.
In this article, I explore what it means to see oneself as a historical actor, particularly as a woman within the context of postwar Japanese society and a coal-mining community.