Building on Memories

How does World War II continue to resonate in the lives of people in Southeast Asia today, and how are accepted histories of the war sculpted by politics and cultural identity? Key themes to understanding how war memories influence people, nations, and world affairs are:

  • The many different memories of war and whose memories are recorded and passed down, and whose voices are not heard.
  • The politics of war memories and their impact on international relations.
  • The role of remembrance in molding national/regional identities and influencing international relations today.

In its immediate aftermath, the war left deep scars in communities across Southeast Asia, but also a new will on behalf of peoples to steer their destinies and build their own futures. This triggered fresh internal conflicts, and these were often exacerbated as global powers, including the United States and China, saw Southeast Asia as a front for the clash of ideologies, including communism, socialism, democracy, and capitalism.

Over the decades since its end, World War II has continued to weave the shared narratives and identities of people across the region, and inform the course of events.
Those who lived through the war commonly refer to “before the war,” “during the war,” and “after the war” as delineations of not just events, but of their personal identity. Even as personal and experiential memories fade, complex and often uncomfortable facts continually surface, raising questions about the nature of truth, and how “enemies” and “allies” are defined and remembered from one generation to another.

Click below and investigate memories of World War II in Southeast Asia, and the many perspectives that guide people in the region as they chart their future course.

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