Panel 1. 

The Production, Representation and Consumption of War Memory

Chair: Prof. Brenda Yeoh (National University of Singapore)

This panel will focus on the ways which memories of war are produce, processed and consumed.

A. The production and didactics of memory: involves many actors, both state and non-state. Speakers will examine the forms that this process takes.

  • Museums, as public institutions, absorb, integrate, and transform individual memories into social, collective ones, for public education.
  • Civil society, poets, academics present another group of actors who examine, transform and critique memory.

B. The consumption of memory:

  • How memory is harnessed and consumed for political ends;
  • How memory produced by various actors is consumed (or, perhaps in the case of WWII poetry, largely rejected) by the public.

Speaker 1.

Dr Mark R. Frost (Essex Univeristy)

The new didactics of Chinese war remembrance: developments in Nanjing

How museums and memorials in Nanjing have adopted an evolved narrative. While, in the past, the focus was on victimhood, this has pivoted to a focus on ‘victory’, and on China’s central place in a new world order.

<Full abstract pending Dr Mark Frost>

Speaker 2.

Dr. Daniel Schumacher (Essex University)

Power and memory: war veterans and social activism in Asia's port cities

While Asia’s ‘memory boom’ did not fully slip into gear until the 1980s, certain territories in the region had seen a whole infrastructure of monuments and remembrance ceremonies forged and fostered since 1945. Hong Kong and Singapore, hitherto only scrutinized by the existing scholarship in isolation to each other and mostly in relation to their immediate neighbouring countries, each represent a case in point. In both places, state and non-state actors utilized these sites and services in the politics of power and memory for decades while the region went through important transitions in the aftermath of World War II.

First, this paper follows Chinese veterans of the anti-Japanese resistance in Singapore and their struggle for acknowledgment and representation in the commemorative sphere. This will add an additional dimension to the larger struggle of Overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia to articulate in public their new-found identities and societal roles, reshaped by World War II and in the context of subsequent decolonization. Secondly, the widely mediatised and transnationally active civic rights campaign by Hong Kong’s small band of Pacific War veterans will be shown to have unfolded in a similar context and, in the process, to have enabled political demands of a much larger minority, the Indians of Hong Kong, to be lifted from obscurity.

This paper thus suggests that adapting and repurposing the public resource of war commemoration allowed non-governmental actors in the region to successfully challenge seemingly overpowering authorities, such as those of the colonial apparatus in Hong Kong or Singapore, and achieve a certain degree of political enfranchisement. These phenomena furthermore throw into question the usefulness of established periodizations that identify the end of the global Cold War as a central primer for Asia’s memory boom and move regional forces into focus instead.

Speaker 3.

Ms Priscilla Chua, co-presented with Ms Sarah Yip (National Museum of Singapore)

Remembering the Fall of Singapore at NMS

Museums are increasingly seen as key producers of memories for the public’s consumption. As the National Museum and the main social history museum in Singapore, NMS plays out this role amid the different voices belonging to various communities and stakeholders. This paper looks at how the National Museum’s international exhibition, Witness to War: Remembering 1942, is a case-study of how museums ‘collect’ and integrate individual memories. Using both traditional curatorial treatment and new ways of presentation, these memories are transformed into stories for public education and consumption. The exhibition also involved, for the first time, an extensive engagement process, through which the views of various and diverse communities were weaved into the narrative, making the museum a central mediator in the memory production process.

Speaker 4.

Mr Daryl Lim (Poet)

Whither the Fall: The Problem of WWII Poetry in Singapore

This paper examines how the Fall of Singapore and WWII have been commemorated and handled in English-language poetry in Singapore, and the attendant issues that arise. Particular poems by lauded figures from the Singaporean literary canon will be analysed to facilitate this examination. Some remarks will also be directed towards the future of WWII poetry in Singapore.