Contested Memoryscapes: The Politics of Second World War Commemoration in Singapore

By dr. Hamzah Bin Muzaini - Within human geography, and the social sciences more generally, the literature that has developed around the phenomenon of war commemoration – specifically through the spatial, representational and textual analysis of memoryscapes (or memorial landscapes), including monuments, museums, and memorial ceremonies – has indeed been a burgeoning one.

Yet, many of the case studies  interrogated on the subject have tended to draw on Western case studies. While this body of work has yielded much insight into the ways large-scale conflicts are commemorated and contested today (and in historical times), it is our contention that there is still much more that can be learnt from also considering memoryscapes of war found within non-Western societies. This book presents such an endeavour in its analysis of how the Second World War (1941-45) is remembered within Singapore, unique for its potential to shed light on the manifold politics associated with the commemoration of wars not only within an Asian but also a multiracial and multi-religious postcolonial context.     

The primary objectives of the book are three-fold. First, it seeks to trace the historical genealogy of war commemoration in Singapore. Second, through a critical analysis of a wide selection of these memoryscapes, the book interrogates how memories of the war as it happened in Singapore have been spatially and discursively appropriated today by state (and non-state) agencies over various scales as means of achieving multiple objectives, including (but not limited to) tourism, mourning and nation-building. Third, the book examines the perspectives of those who engage with these memoryscapes as former war participants, Singapore citizens, heritage enthusiasts, visitors and tourists in order to reveal the contested nature of these memoryscapes as fractured by social divisions of race, gender and nationality.

Research group:
dr. Hamzah Bin Muzaini (project leader/lead author)

prof. Brenda Yeoh S.A. (co-author)