War Memory and the Making of Modern Malaysia and Singapore

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NUS Press, Jan 1, 2012 - History - 476 pages
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Singapore fell to Japan on 15 February 1942. Within days, the Japanese had massacred thousands of Chinese civilians, and taken prisoner more than 100,000 British, Australian and Indian soldiers. A resistance movement formed in Malaya's jungle-covered mountains, but the vast majority could do little other than resign themselves to life under Japanese rule. The Occupation would last three and a half years, until the return of the British in September 1945.

How is this period remembered? And how have individuals, communities, and states shaped and reshaped memories in the postwar era? The book response to these questions, presenting answers that use the words of Chinese, Malays, Indians, Eurasians, British and Australians who personally experienced the war years.

The authors guide readers through many forms of memory: from the soaring pillars of Singapore's Civilian War Memorial, to traditional Chinese cemeteries in Malaysia; and from families left bereft by Japanese massacres, to the young women who flocked to the Japanese-sponsored Indian National Army, dreaming of a march on Delhi.

This volume provides a forum for previously marginalized and self-censored voices, using the stories they relate to reflect on the nature of conflict and memory. They also offer a deeper understanding of the searing transit from wartime occupation to post-war decolonization and the moulding of postcolonial states and identities.
 

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"...an illuminating study of the complex contestations and configurations of the politics of memory to which war lends itself." - Diana Wong
"...an enthusiastic study of war memory in both
Singapore and Malaysia. It demonstrates the malleability of the past, showing how war memory is suppressed or shaped, and how stories take on mythic qualities. In particular, its analytical model of breaking down memory into the level of individual, community, and state is very helpful at deconstructing this process." - PJ Thum
“In this excellent study War Memory brings out the persistence of multiple memories and the challenge of constructing a national narrative that is inclusive yet authentic. It is a book of high scholarly standard and should contribute to an informed discussion of history-writing in Malaya.” - Lee Kam Hing
 

Contents

Introduction
3
Personal Narratives of British Defeat and Japanese Occupation
14
1i Three war veterans at the September 2005 Forum
15
2ii K R Das and his Japanese friend Kikuchi Sekine
25
3i Mohd Anis bin Tairan being interviewed by Kevin
46
The European Prisoner of War as Hero and Victim
53
1iii Australian exPOWs watching Japanese POWs
59
2i Singapore Cenotaph
66
Malay Warriors and Pemuda
207
1v Lieutenant Adnan Saidi
213
3xiii Sergeant Hassan poster
230
5i Tugu Negara
239
Malay Victims
243
Nations and States
253
Memory and NationBuilding in Malaysia
255
1i National Museum of History 19962007 Kuala
264

4iv Malaya Tribune cartoon on postwar conditions
75
6i Changi Chapel as built by the Singapore Tourism
86
The Nativity Scene
92
The Chinese War Hero
96
1vi Cheng Seang Ho at the opening of the Kranji
111
3viii Lim Bo Seng with Force 136 colleague John Davis
126
Chinese Victimhood
135
1v Remains from the 1960s Chinese Chamber
139
6xii The Winning Design for the Civilian War Memo
166
Indian Nationalism and Suffering
174
2iii Emaciated patients in a hospital hut at Nakom
179
5i September Martyrs Memorial Nilai 2003
280
Memory and NationBuilding in Singapore
292
1xvi Fort Siloso Live 2001 flyer
306
5i Singapore schoolchildren commemorating
328
Conclusion
334
Glossary
343
Notes
345
Mapsi
358
Bibliography
416
Index
439
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About the author (2012)

Kevin BLACKBURN is an Associate Professor in History at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He has published on oral history, heritage, the prisoner of war experience, and war memory. 

Karl HACK is Senior Lecturer at the Open University, United Kingdom, and Director of its Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies. He was born in Singapore, and taught at the Nanyang Technological University from 1995-2006. He has published books on Southeast Asia, and on military, imperial and oral history.

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