World War II remains a profoundly relevant event to the peoples of the Asia-Pacific region over sixty years after its end. Memories of the war, whether expressed in reparations movements, school textbooks, scholarly work, institution-building or popular culture are still capable of eliciting passionate responses and either forging or destroying relationships across the region. Distinct from, albeit overlapping with, the European theater of WWII, the Asia-Pacific theater remains overshadowed in scholarship and public memory. This disjuncture between the passions that can still be aroused and the neglect of the memory phenomena suggests that the time is ripe for a broad, regional and collaborative engagement with the event and its memory legacies.
The Center for the Study of Pacific War Memories was established in the fall of 2006 to facilitate curricular and research projects across the Asia-Pacific region related to memories of the Pacific War (1937-1945). We understand “memory” to mean an orientation to the past that seeks to render the past meaningful in some way to the present. Memories are articulated and sustained in a wide range of media and practices at individual and collective levels. At the same time, we understand memory to be historical, that is, we understand it to change over time, with changing contexts and changing agents of memory. Finally, while memory is a the core of identity-formation, we also understand memory-making in the modern world to be always operating at a global level. Thus, memories of the past in one place do not exist in isolation within single national or ethnic boundaries, but are always in formation through engagement with other memories from other places and other groups.
From these core principles of approach, the Center seeks especially to promote transnational, collaborative teaching and research. The foundational project of the Center is the construction of a website for a multi-language, multinational research community that uses open source technology that provides the functionality of Flickr.com Wikipedia and Facebook. Users will be able to upload and download primary and secondary source materials (within the limits of copyright and permissions set by contributors) from a digital archive constructed by users and organized by user-set tags in multiple languages. Users of the site will be able to add information to the data points within the archive, producing collaboratively authored encyclopedia entries. The site will provide venues for on-line, peer-reviewed publication and Facebook-like features that will help students and researchers with related scholarly agendas to forge transnational collaborations.