Memorializing Pearl Harbor

Unfinished Histories and the Work of Remembrance

Memorializing Pearl Harbor

Book Pages: 352 Illustrations: 30 illustrations Published: April 2016

American Studies, Anthropology > Museum Studies, History > U.S. History

Memorializing Pearl Harbor examines the challenge of representing history at the site of the attack that brought America into World War II. Analyzing moments in which history is re-presented—in commemorative events, documentary films, museum design, and educational programming—Geoffrey M. White shows that the memorial to the Pearl Harbor bombing is not a fixed or singular institution. Rather, it has become a site in which many histories are performed, validated, and challenged. In addition to valorizing military service and sacrifice, the memorial has become a place where Japanese veterans have come to seek recognition and reconciliation, where Japanese Americans have sought to correct narratives of racial mistrust, and where Native Hawaiians have challenged their ongoing erasure from their own land. Drawing on extended ethnographic fieldwork, White maps these struggles onto larger controversies about public history, museum practices, and national memory.


"This well-researched, provocative study, written for specialists rather than general readers, will be of considerable interest to students of ethnography, public history, and museum studies. Highly recommended." — C. J. Weeks, Choice

"[An] insightful new book. . . . White is the ideal writer for such an undertaking." — Nicolaus Mills, American Historical Review

"Geoffrey M. White has written a book that goes far beyond the events and commemoration of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the opening salvo that determined the US entry into World War II. White’s book addresses some of the most vital questions of remembering the past with a prose that is engaging, accessible, always pregnant with possibilities for new insights and with wide-ranging applications." — Gretchen Engle Schafft, Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology

"Geoffrey M. White’s study of memorial practices at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, makes a significant and unique contribution to the study of commemorating the past." — John Bodnar, Journal of American History

“White’s presentation of the transformation of the landscape of Pearl Harbor from a single memorial to a monument with multiple museums is both fascinating and sobering.”

— Sally E. Perry, Journal of American Culture

"This is a book with many stories to tell.  . . . White’s writing is masterful; demonstrating a rare gift for rendering complex themes and complicating received categories in flowing, accessible prose. There’s a surfeit of riches here difficult to do justice to, with nearly every page holding some nugget worthy of quotation or comment. Students of history and memory, museology, World War II, film and race, tourism and other themes too numerous to list will find exploring this book time well spent." — Andrew J. Connelly, Pacific Affairs

"Memorializing Pearl Harbor is a welcome contribution to the field of historical reconciliation, which is broadening its horizons beyond the confines of the West. . . . It is a thoughtful ethnography that illuminates the shifts in meaning, purpose, institutional conditions, and civic engagement as framed by the overarching understanding that the memorial we see today is a result of long-term negotiations, intense emotional dialogues, and conflicting memories surrounding the events of 7 December 1945 in a complex historical setting." — Akiko Hashimoto, Monumenta Nipponica

"A model study in the field of public history." — James I. Matray, Pacific Historical Review

"This is a book that elegantly balances the observations made during fieldwork, and those culled from documentary sources, with White’s own insightful analysis. The accounts of those engrossed in the memorial’s day-to-day activities keep it engaging, while his analysis, often dealing with slippery concepts, is clear." — Dacia Viejo Rose, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

"Memorializing Pearl Harbor is unparalleled in its contribution to the study of collective memory of World War II in the Pacific." — Kate C. Lemay, Reviews in American History

"An ambitious melding of ethnographic and historiographical writing and an important contribution to current discussions of memory and representation of the past." — Matthew Penney, The Public Historian

“An earnest and carefully-researched ethnography.” — Joseph P. Feldman, PoLAR

"A well-written and well-researched book that examines the changing meanings and representations of the Pearl Harbor Memorial. White’s study underscores multiple, yet often conflicting, remembrances of the Pearl Harbor attack and the challenges that educators face. . . . The volume is thought provoking, and anyone who is interested in war and memory, the Pearl Harbor attack, peace education, historical reconciliation, and public history will probably find the book insightful and enlightening." — Takashi Yoshida, Anthropos

"As an ethnographer and historian, Geoffrey M. White is both a participant in the changing memory practices at Pearl Harbor and a keen analyst of them. Here he brings together his long involvement with the site, a deep reading of the theoretical issues related to war and memorialization, and lucid prose to produce a compelling book that reveals how the site at Pearl Harbor involves an ongoing and dynamic process of memory making." — Emily S. Rosenberg, author of A Date Which Will Live: Pearl Harbor in American Memory

"With engaging prose, theoretical sophistication, and rich observation, Geoffrey M. White advances a new understanding of public commemoration as deeply affective work for those whose voices are remembered, forgotten, or excluded. Memorializing Pearl Harbor fills a huge lacuna in the study of contemporary American memory and breaks new ground in its ethnographic depth and historical breadth by bringing a range of sites of memory production into one comprehensive account. It is a tour de force." — Christina Schwenkel, author of The American War in Contemporary Vietnam: Transnational Remembrance and Representation


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii

Introduction. Memorializing History  1

1. Survivor Voices  35

2. Cultures of Commemoration  77

3. Memorial Film: Envisioning Race and Nation  129

4. Theming America at War  161

5. Making a New Museum  201

6. Pedagogy, Patriotism, and Paranoia  245

Conclusion. History's Future  265

Appendix 1. Pearl Harbor Bombing Statistics (December 7, 1941)  285

Appendix 2. Chronology of Hawaiian Political History, Postcontact  287

Appendix 3. Chronology of Internment of Japanese Americans and Japanese Residents  289

Appendix 4. Very Brief Filmography of Pearl Harbor Official and Feature Films  291

Notes  293

References  307

Index  319
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6102-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6088-9
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