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The Contemporary Pacific 15.1 (2003) 205-208

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Perilous Memories: The Asia-Pacific War(s), edited by T Fujitani, Geoffrey M White, and Lisa Yoneyama. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001. ISBN cloth, 0-8223-2532-2; paper, 0-8223-2564-0; vi + 462 pages, tables, photographs, notes, bibliography, filmography, index. Cloth, US$59.95; paper, US$19.95.

This book has its origin in a 1995 international conference marking the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, and is part of a groundswell—or shockwave—of "memory activities" reconsidering, rewriting, and rearguing that war. The goal is to [End Page 205] promote "the recovery and reinterpretation of events, experiences, and sentiments that have been pushed to the margins of the past" (5). Partly, this means representing people whose war stories are in danger of being lost. But it also indicates a political agenda, a response to how "the great global powers of the twentieth century . . . have managed to produce a forgetfulness about themselves as imperial and colonial powers" (5). The book is intended to reveal "some of the means through which national modes of representation succeed in systematically marginalizing or silencing dissonant memories" (7). What are these "dissonant" memories?

Some are willful attempts to efface or distort the past. Marita Sturken discusses how American national memory has and has not memorialized the Japanese internment camps. Daquing Yang describes the complex links between modern politics in Japan and China and the memory of the Nanking massacre. Others critique public images: Lamont Lindstrom on how photographic representations of Pacific Islanders fit (or were reworked to fit) the narratives of war; Vicente Diaz's reflections connecting memories of Liberation Day on Guam with American intentions in the Pacific; TFujitani on images of Nisei soldiers in US government propaganda and in the 1951 film Go for Broke. Geoffrey White compares the original documentary film shown at the Pearl Harbor Memorial (built in 1962) with the new film produced in 1991-1992. Lisa Yoneyama discusses the Enola Gay controversy at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. And, in the essay of perhaps the most immediate practical use, Morio Watanabe's "Imagery and War in Japan: 1995" at long last explains the popularity of "Hello Kitty" and "Sailor Moon" products as aspects of representations of war in Japanese popular culture.

Some authors provide a view "from the margins" of people or place. George Lipsitz describes how African-American soldiers and civilians responded to the Asia-Pacific War, and explores linkages between African Americans and Asian Americans, between racism and imperialism in US history. Historian Arif Dirlik views "the war from the perspective of East/Southeast Asian societies" (303), where local struggles temporarily became engaged with the global conflict, yet renewed their local meaning in postwar years. Diana Wong's fascinating chapter describes the public memory of the war in Singapore, where the Japanese erased all signs of the British past through a process of public renaming and memorializing. Yet, ironically, hardly a trace of the Japanese occupation is evident in modern Singapore. In wartime Malaya, "multiple scripts of national liberation" (225) were played out: Japanese presented themselves as liberators of Singapore (from British rule), some of the Malay elite joined the Japanese, the Indians of Malaya became part of a nationalist movement for Indian freedom, and the Malayan Communist party fought against the Japanese while also opposing British colonial rule. What, then, was to be done with public memory of this era when the British returned? For "the memory of British defeat, of 'native' disloyalty, as well as of communist resistance—had to be suppressed" (227). As it happened, the [End Page 206] British anticommunist fight, rather than the Japanese occupation, "has come to hold the place of founding myth of the modern Malaysian state" (229). Thinking about Singapore's history became so intractable that the topic was actually removed from primary school textbooks for a time in the 1970s and 1980s. Wong argues that the city in recent years is experiencing a "reinstatement of history" to accompany its rediscovery of itself as a...