Over the past four decades, East and Southeast Asia have seen a proliferation of heritage sites and remembrance practices which commemorate the region’s bloody conflicts of the period 1931–45. Remembering Asia’s World War Two examines the origins, dynamics, and repercussions of this regional war “memory boom”.
The book analyzes the politics of war commemoration in contemporary East and Southeast Asia. Featuring contributions from leading international scholars, the chapters span China, Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore, covering topics such as the commemoration of the Japanese military’s “comfort women” system, forms of "dark tourism" or commemorative pilgrimages (e.g. veterans’ tours to wartime battlefields), and the establishment and evolution of various war-related heritage sites and museums. Case studies reveal the distinctive trajectories of new and newly discovered forms of remembrance within and across national boundaries. They highlight the growing influence of non-state actors over representations of conflict and occupation, as well as the increasingly interconnected and transnational character of memory-making. Taken together, the studies collected here demonstrate that across much of Asia the public commemoration of the wars of 1931–45 has begun to shift from portraying them as a series of national conflicts with distinctive local meanings to commemorating the conflict as a common pan-Asian, or even global, experience.
Focusing on non-textual vehicles for public commemoration and considering both the local and international dimensions of war commemoration within, Remembering Asia’s World War Two will be a crucial reference for students and scholars of History, Memory Studies, and Heritage Studies, as well as all those interested in the history, politics, and culture of contemporary Asia.
Table of Contents
Introduction: locating Asia’s war memory boom: a new temporal and geopolitical perspective
Part I States and citizens
1 Angry states: Chinese views of Japan as seen through the Unit 731 War Museum since 1949
2 Memory times, memory places: public and private commemoration of war in China
3 The Jianchuan museum: the politics of war memory in a private Chinese museum
4 The state of Malaysian war memory: "postcolonizing" moments in Perak
Part II Transnational dynamics
5 Capitalists can do no wrong: selective memories of war and occupation in Hong Kong
6 Transition and transnational loyalties: World War Two remembrance and the overseas Chinese in Singapore
7 Commemorating "comfort women" beyond Korea: the Chinese case
Part III Transnational reconciliation
8 In search of fathers: the pilgrimages to Asia of the children of Far East prisoners of war
9 "Affect" and dislocation: exhibiting the kamikaze in Japan and Pearl Harbor
10 Methods of reconciliation: the "rich tradition" of Japanese war memory activism in post-war Southeast Asia
Mark R. Frost is Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of History, University of Essex, UK. He is a historian of the colonial encounter in the Indian Ocean world, a documentary filmmaker and exhibition designer, and the author of Singapore: A Biography (2009, 2013).
Daniel Schumacher is Associate Fellow at the Centre for Public History, University of Essex, UK. His research interests include East/Southeast Asian memory politics and transcultural education. He is the co-editor (with Stephanie Yeo) of Exhibiting the Fall of Singapore: Close Readings of a Global Event (2018).
Edward Vickers is Professor of Comparative Education and Director of the Taiwan Studies Program at Kyushu University, Japan. A former schoolteacher and textbook author (in Hong Kong and Beijing), he has published widely on the politics of memory, identity, and education in East Asian societies. He is co-author (with Zeng Xiaodong) of Education and Society in post-Mao China (2017).
'A welcome series of informative essays about war memory in East and Southeast Asia. The authors insist on place -- seeing Asian commemorative practices in their own national and transnational terms rather than as refractions of European experience -- and time -- showing that the memory surge of the 1990s had a history long predating the end of the Cold War. A timely intervention in the politics of war memory in Asian and global context.'
Carol Gluck, Professor of History, Columbia University, USA
'Here in Japan, intentional or unintentional erasure of war-related history is rapidly advancing in our educational institutions, where teachers are obliged to adhere to "political neutrality". This book thoughtfully analyzes the focus, intentions and methods of conflict commemoration across East and Southeast Asia, showing the fraught state of heritage politics throughout the region. It reminds us that the pursuit of truth, rejection of erasure, and reconciliation beyond national boundaries will never be achieved through an insistence on keeping history monolithic and static.'
Tomoko Ako, University of Tokyo, Japan
'[The book] provides a strong foundation for understanding the newly-developing dimensions of Asia’s memory formation, and how different countries are putting forth different strategies towards reconciliation with their difficult histories.'
Hyun Kyung Lee, International Journal of Heritage Studies