Remembering the Japanese occupation massacres
Mass graves in post-war Malaysia
in Human remains and identification

The violence visited upon British Malaya during the Japanese Occupation of December 1941 to August 1945 has prompted several historians to evoke comparisons with the atrocities that befell Nanjing. For the duration of three years and eight months, unknown numbers of civilians were subjected to massacres, summary executions, rape, forced labour, arbitrary detention and torture.

This chapter explores several exhumations which have taken place in the territory to interrogate the significance of exhumations in shaping communal collective war memory, a subject which has thus far eluded scholarly study. It argues that these exhumations have not been exercises in recording or recovering historical facts; rather they have obfuscated the past by augmenting popular perceptions of Chinese victimhood and resistance, to the exclusion of all other ethnic groups’ war experiences. As a result, exhumations of mass graves in Malaysia have thus far served as poor examples of forensic investigation; rather these operations highlight how exhumations can emerge as battlegrounds in the contest between war memory and historiography.

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Human remains and identification

Mass violence, genocide, and the ‘forensic turn’

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