Fulbright Hays DDRA De Leon

Project: Research project

Project Details


My project analyzes the material culture of World War II, with a focus on soldiers’ belongings and war souvenirs from the Pacific. I explore how these material objects mediate relationships with the war past. During WWII, Allied soldiers took personal objects from fallen Japanese soldiers, including Japanese flags, letters, diaries, photos, and officers’ swords. Since the end of WWII, former Allied soldiers and their descendents have attempted to return hundreds of these souvenirs to the families of the soldiers in Japan.Through the symbolic return of a material object, participants create new narratives of the past – the past of the individual, the family, and the nation. By focusing on soldiers’ belongings as tangible links to the past, my project will reveal how individuals invent narratives of history that both differ from national ones and help resolve the knotty emotional dilemmas created by war. At the same time, my research demonstrates that narratives about war can be constructed in collaborative ways across national borders, and that meaningful reconciliation between former enemies takes place on a smallscale, interpersonal level in addition to state actions such as public apologies and reparations. I argue that understanding WWII memory today requires understanding the surprising extent to which individuals feel the need to connect to the war through emotional and imaginative bonds with their former enemies.
Effective start/end date9/30/204/30/23


  • Department of Education (P022A200036-1)


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