Abstract

While conducting fieldwork in Pohnpei, Micronesia, in the 1980s and 1990s, Suzanne Falgout heard poignant accounts of the Islanders' experiences during World War II. The stories and songs that she recorded reveal that for Pohnpeians the effects of the war were local and personal—a catastrophe visited on a landscape that they know in intimate terms. In this paper we discuss not only the content of these memories but also the broader role of memory in human culture. First, we critique common understandings of memory. We highlight the ability of memory to transcend time, the diversity of forms that memory can take, and the active role of humans as agents in the process of remembering. Next, we examine the similarities and differences between personal and cultural memory and the processes of transformation from individual experience to collective identity. Finally, we discuss the nature of Pohnpeian experiences in World War II and what has made them such enduring and compelling cultural memories sixty years after the war. We relate these wartime memories to traditional Pohnpeian understandings of historical knowledge and to the genres, tropes, characters, concerns, and contexts used by Pohnpeians to remember and to articulate the past. We also examine the changing nature and use of war memories as a strategic resource in the context of contemporary Micronesia.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 101-131
Launched on MUSE
2002-01-01
Open Access
No
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