Heritage and the Politics of Culture
Memories and forgotten of wars and their (selected) representations have been an integral part of nation-building in various Asian countries. Singapore is no exception, and “common suffering” during the War have been a. In 2017, Singapore re-opened the war museum at the Former Ford Factory with a new exhibition titled “Syonan Gallery” to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Downfall of Singapore during the Pacific War. It immediately attracted criticism from the public, especially the Chinese-speaking populations, that the government failed to understand their sufferings. The paper will analyze how the war memories have represented in this exhibition, with comparison to other existing exhibitions in other museums. How has oral history been placed in the process? I will also use “Syonan Gallery” and related debates to illustrate how the discourse of suffering and victimhood has become a competing discourse between the nation-state and the population who felt neglected. This paper also explores how the notion of suffering and victimhood to create national bond have undermined the voices of other victims of the war in Singapore but from other parts of the region; and how such memories of the war shape and affect the current understanding of the past and present of the local and inter-Asian societies. By the end of the paper, I will also argue for the significance of re-examining the war memories and their representations towards contemporary cultural / politics, and explore the possibilities of commemoration beyond the notion of ethno-/nationalistic sufferings within the context of war-related exhibitions.