Cultures of Commemoration: The Politics of War, Memory, and History in the Mariana Islands

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Winner of the Masayoshi Ohira Memorial PrizeIn 1941 the Japanese military attacked the US naval base Pearl Harbor on the Hawaiian island of O`ahu. Although much has been debated about this event and the wider American and Japanese involvement in the war, few scholars have explored the Pacific War's impact on Pacific Islanders. Cultures of Commemoration fills this crucial gap in the historiography by advancing scholarly understanding of Pacific Islander relations with and knowledge of American and Japanese colonialisms in the twentieth century.Drawing from an extensive archival base of government, military, and popular records, Chamorro scholar Keith L Camacho traces the formation of divergent colonial and indigenous histories in the Mariana Islands, an archipelago located in the western Pacific and home to the Chamorro people. He shows that US colonial governance of Guam, the southernmost island, and that of Japan in the Northern Mariana Islands created competing colonial histories that would later inform how Americans, Chamorros, and Japanese experienced and remembered the war and its aftermath. Central to this discussion is the American and Japanese administrative development of loyalty and liberation as concepts of social control, collective identity, and national belonging. Just how various Chamorros from Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands negotiated their multiple identities and subjectivities is explored with respect to the processes of history and memory-making among this Americanized and Japanized Pacific Islander population. In addition, Camacho emphasizes the rise of war commemorations as sites for the study of American national historic landmarks, Chamorro Liberation Day festivities, and Japanese bone-collecting missions and peace pilgrimages.Ultimately, Cultures of Commemoration demonstrates that the past is made meaningful and at times violent by competing cultures of American, Chamorro, and Japanese commemorative practices.