Memorializing Pearl Harbor: Unfinished Histories and the Work of Remembrance
Geoffrey M. White is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i. He is the coeditor of Perilous Memories: The Asia-Pacific War(s), also published by Duke University Press, and author of Identity through History: Living Stories in a Solomon Islands Society.
Cultures of Commemoration
This chapter focuses on the ceremonial activities that take place in and around the memorial to commemorate the Pearl Harbor attack and related events. After an analysis of the ritual politics of military ceremony, the chapter relates the story about the way that the author was enlisted by a number of Japanese veterans’ intent on organizing transnational commemorative activities bringing Japanese and American veterans together in acts of reconciliation. Involvement in those activities brings home the book’s core arguments that, first, memorial memory is thoroughly social, and, second, that the most public official histories are surrounded by diverse alternative histories that leave behind their own influences on memory, even if not inscribed in memorial architecture. This chapter’s longitudinal sketch of annual rites of remembrance on December 7th illuminates shifts in commemorative culture such as the effects of the September 11 attacks.