Japanese in Southeast Asia during WWII: Understanding from Different Perspectives

Module Summary

This module is a broad overview that adopts a comparative framework to explore similarities and differences in responses to the Japanese advances and occupation in independent Thailand, and in the Western colonies (American, French, British, Dutch and Portuguese) in Southeast Asia. The session will also examine the anti-Japanese sentiments and movements that the Japanese occupation spawned, and the divergent paths toward independence. The module will address various questions regarding the historical background of Japanese occupation, the strategies the Japanese used to maintain control of occupied countries, the ways communities within these countries responded to Japanese occupation, and the issue of “collaboration.” The module will also ask “Do these complex responses have any counterparts in armed conflicts today?”

This module is based on the presentation by Shigeru Sato (Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Social Science, The University of Newcastle, Australia) for the East-West Center’s 2011 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute for Teachers.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this module do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the East-West Center.

Optional Reading

The optional readings for this module are:
McCoy, Alfred W., Southeast Asia Under Japanese Occupation. (New Haven: Monograph Series No. 22 Yale University Southeast Asia Studies, 1980, 1-13).
Silverstein, Josef, “The Importance of the Japanese Occupation of Southeast Asia to the Political Scientist.” Southeast Asia in World War II: Four Essays (New Haven: Monograph Series No. 7, Yale University Southeast Asia Studies, 1966, 1-11).
Teeuw, A., “1942, The Year of the Break.” Modern Indonesian Literature, Volume I (Leiden: KITLV Press, 1994, 105-107).

Teaching Materials

PowerPoint lecture “The Japanese in Southeast Asia during the Pacific War”
The reading “Southeast Asia Under Japanese Occupation”

Key topics include: capitalism, Chinese minorities, communism, decolonization, democracy, development, Netherlands Indies, European powers, fascism, Federated Malay States , First Indochina War, French Indochina, Hinduism imperialism / colonialism, independence movements, Islam in Southeast Asia, Islamic sultanates, Mainland Southeast Asia/Island Southeast Asia, Malaya/British Malaya, Malays, nationalism, post-war period, revolution, Spanish rule/American rule, trade and the economy, urban/rural divisions, Viet Minh/Viet Cong, warfare and combat, WWII in Southeast Asia.

We welcome comments from teachers on how you have integrated this material into your teaching, including what was useful and what wasn’t, and what additional resources you would like to see in or recommend for this module.