Contestations of Memory in Southeast Asia

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Edited by Roxana Waterson and Kwok Kian-Woon

Contestations of Memory in Southeast Asia applies a new theoretical literature on social memory to remembered events in Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia. Highlighting connections between theorizing based on European examples and unresolved memory issues in East and Southeast Asia, the authors show how comparative study of the interpenetration of politics and lived bodily experience, of communal and personal memories, and of dominant and suppressed narratives, can yield insights into the human potential to become either perpetrators, victims or bystanders.

The memories found within different groups in any society are open to negotiation, suppression, contestation, or revision in the ever-evolving politics of the present. The searching and close-grained analyses of contemporary issues found in the volume vividly illustrate the essentially plural and multivocal nature of social memories, and demonstrate the intricate connection between transnational, national and sub-national politics. Readers seeking a more nuanced and complex understanding of the past and of its continued relevance to the present and future, will find here much food for thought.


"In addition to the inspiring theoretical engagement with memory studies across disciplines and the important discussion of the ethics of the historian, Waterson and Kwok have collected a series of essays that reflect how language, memorial and the aims of politics shape our understandings of historical memory as societies and as individuals...a well-researched, provocative engagement with history and politics of contemporary Southeast Asia, worthy of further discussion in classrooms across the disciplines." - William B Noseworthy

"Contestations of Memory provides a fine addition to any library. Its contributors' deft use of theoretical and empirical data comes together in an intriguing look at memory, postcoloniality, and the ongoing process of nation-building in Southeast Asia. It would be an appropriate volume for both undergraduate and graduate courses, as well as a valuable item of reference for those interested in social memory, nationalism, postcoloniality, or identity and trauma in Southeast Asia." - Michael Hawkins

“Its contributors’ deft use of theoretical and empirical data comes together in an intriguing look at memory, postcoloniality, and the ongoing process of nation-building in Southeast Asia” - Kevin Blackburn


Roxana Waterson is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore. Her other publications include Paths and Rivers: Sa'dan Toraja Society in Transformation and Southeast Asian Lives: Personal Narratives and Historical Experience.

KWOK Kian-Woon is an Associate Professor in the Division of Sociology, School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.


Publication Year: 2012
250 pages, 229mm x 153mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-506-4, Paperback

NUS Press