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.
Conclusion: History’s Future
The conclusion reflects on the predicament of national war memory by locating the story of the USS Arizona Memorial in the wider landscape of Second World War remembrance and war remembrance generally. Arguing that each memorial story, each history of memory, is embedded in specific locations, histories, and subjectivities, the book nonetheless concludes with consideration of the place of witnesses and survivors as both objects and agents of memory who shape the possibilities for historical imagination. The opportunity to conduct an ethnographic study during the period spanning the fiftieth and seventy-fifth anniversaries of events marked by the memorial affords a close-up look at memorials as social spaces in which multiple histories intersect. At Pearl Harbor dominant military histories are increasingly joined by other narratives of the Pacific War and, indeed, by other Pearl Harbors, such as that of the Japanese American experience with internment or native Hawaiian perspectives on the harbor as a place of dispossession and alienation in the face of an expanding American empire. At the same time, the remaking of Pearl Harbor as a kind of Pacific War theme park as the war generation passes away is underwriting a more fundamental transformation in which forces of commodification and abstraction now deploy war memory in new and still unknown ways.