Select Language

The Anthropological Study of Historical Memory and Emotions on the Intercourse with Other Peoples in Oceania and Island Southeast Asia

Research period:2018.10-2023.3

KAZAMA Kazuhiro




This study will make correlations with emotions and places for recollection and pursue the question of how, in a modern world marked by massive, labyrinthine flows of digital information, historical memories of interactions with others acquire “historicity.”
Many developing nations across Oceania and Island Southeast Asia gained their independence following periods of colonial rule by the Western powers and Japan or after World War Two. Within the historical dynamics that lead up to the present day, the citizens of these regions have encountered a diversity of other peoples through migration, become entangled in conflicts and war, and yet also enjoyed experiences of peaceful cooperation with others. For expediency, in placing our focus on these historical memories of interaction with other peoples, we assumed a polarization between (1) public, collective memories of the unification of citizens and ethnic groups and (2) the vernacular memories rooted in the daily lives of individuals.
First, anticipating interrelationships between these two types of historical memory, this study will investigate how people create, pass on, and erase collective memories and memories from individual experience with their emotions. Historical memories that are recalled through association with relics, written documents, and personal narratives do not exist as static information; they possess the hidden power to stir human emotions and at times even incite extreme actions. Accordingly, as a second objective, this study will strive to identify the inherent emotional and physical attributes of recollection and to that end, will include within its scope of consideration the settings or contexts through which the historical memories of people living in the present day become manifest.

Research Results

The results of this study have been grouped into the following three topics: 1) memory of war and conflict, and the relationship with the state, 2) memory of migration and settlement, and 3) interactions with other peoples and diverse memory mediums. In 1), we examined the emotions and diverse narratives aroused by war experiences and relics of those killed in war, and the violent suppression and coercion of memory by the state, which can be said to be the mainstream of memory theory. In 2), we took up themes surrounding immigration from the colonial period to the present, and discussed the experiences and emotions of immigrants in foreign lands and their multi-tiered relationship with the native peoples. In 3), we discussed the historical memory of initial contact with Europeans in the insular region of Oceania, which is said to be markedly different from the insular region of Southeast Asia. In Oceania, there are no written records left by the local inhabitants, so memory has been passed down by diverse memory mediums such as oral traditional genealogical knowledge, myths, and designs.
In summary, the study revealed that historical memory in diverse forms—such as physical materials like war relics, ashes of the deceased, and stone monuments, and remaining photographs, narratives, songs, designs carved in bodies, and behavior—invokes emotions that drive people. The phenomenon of possession caused by suffering experienced in war is a good example of bitter memories not only activating the living, but also the dead. However, there are also cases of the will of the state suppressing vernacular memory by working to plant collective memories in the public through museum exhibits. In addition, memories of immigration experiences and interactions with other peoples—a universal human phenomenon—stimulate recollections that connect to familial groups depending on the situation. They can also exhibit a different facet in individual contexts, that of the collective image of an uneasy and obscure future.
Even historical memories that are difficult to acknowledge empirically as historical fact can potentially seem to have “historicity” by being passed down through diverse mediums. Examining the cases in this study revealed that historicity in historical memory appears performatively and repeatedly; strongly influences the people surrounding it; connects the past, present, and future and the living and the dead to physical materials; and exhibits the ability to activate relationships.