Organized Panel Session
Wounded servicemen figured centrally in transnational military conflicts and their aftermaths in twentieth-century Asia. By framing battle-related injuries primarily as medical problems to be solved, historical scholarship usually depicts wounded and disabled veterans as patients, dependents, and emasculated men while trumpeting the development of healthcare services in the context of combating disease, poverty, and violence. Such treatment often neglects the underlying political, social, and cultural processes that shaped the lived experience of war-wounded soldiers after their demobilization. Bringing together studies on disabled veterans from India, China, and Japan during and after a prolonged period of world-wide conflicts (1914-1945), this panel presents war’s physical, sensory, and cognitive disablements as essential for understanding the colonial, national, and transnational struggles. Nair demonstrates that the actions of disabled Indian sepoys raised public anxiety about extending pension benefits to British imperial subjects and invigorated nationalist critiques of colonialism. Wang shows that blinded veterans took up consequential social responsibilities during wartime by supporting their families in ways that reproduced routine dependency upon China’s military-industrial state. Pennington argues that Japanese disabled veterans have helped to remake common views about Imperial Japanese servicemen by establishing a publicly-funded museum-archive that displays and documents the travails of disabled veterans. By emphasizing the components and contradictions of disability pension systems, rehabilitation ethics, and the material culture of war, each paper offers a competing narrative to medical-technological triumphalism. This transnational panel highlights the collective agency of veterans in debates over colonial legitimacy, the reconstruction of national bodies, and the politics of memory.