Cultures of Commemoration: The Politics of War, Memory, and History in the Mariana Islands
280pp. May 2011
Cultures of Commemoration: The Politics of War, Memory, and History in the Mariana Islands
Author: Camacho, Keith L;
Winner of the Masayoshi Ohira Memorial Prize

In 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.

13 illus., 3 maps
Pacific Islands Monograph Series No. 25
Published in association with the Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i
“Camacho’s fascinating study deserves an audience not only among specialists of the Pacific Islands but also among those who focus on twentieth-century U.S. history. It is essential reading for any scholar of World War II in the Pacific.” —American Historical Review (117:5, December 2012)

“Keith Camacho’s Cultures of Commemoration offers a welcome and highly readable study of indigenous history and the Pacific War. . . . [His] work provides new insights for the postcolonial study of American colonialism.” —Amerasia Journal (37:4, 2011)

“This significant book is thoroughly researched, well organized and tightly argued. It treats extremely sensitive topics with fairness and understanding. Camacho holds two seldom-examined colonialisms up to the light, and demonstrates both the reach and the limits of their powers to shape the lives and memories of the people of the Marianas.” —Pacific Affairs (85:3, September 2012)

"There is no other work that examines the complex interplay and layering of colonialisms in the twentieth-century Marianas with such detail, sensitivity, and intelligence."—Takashi Fujitani, University of California at San Diego

“Camacho‘s study shows us that the critique of indigenous memory is not only crucial to the field of memory studies but also provides a key framework through which the politics of memory will be rethought.” —Marita Sturken, New York University, author of Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero

"This is a unique comparative study that illuminates how localized histories of World War II and American ‘liberation’ have gone through ebbs and flows of commemoration among the Chamorro of Guam and the Northern Marianas. Drawing on both archival and interview-based research, supplemented by engagements across a range of fields of theory including postcolonial criticism, memory studies, feminist studies, and military studies, Camacho explores the multiple and diverse stakes invested in efforts to mark out civic culture in the Marianas chain. The result is an engaging book that asks fundamental questions about colonial legacies, national loyalties, and, most importantly, indigenous historical agency. Along with other recent work by Chamorro and Guam scholars, Camacho’s book contributes to thinking and theorizing at the interface of American studies and Pacific Islands studies in ways that will challenge practitioners in both."—Teresia Teaiwa, Victoria University of Wellington

Author: Camacho, Keith L;
Keith L Camacho is assistant professor of Pacific Islander Studies in the Asian American Studies Department, University of California, Los Angeles.
Read the introduction (PDF).

Introduction: War, Memory, History
1 Loyalty and Liberation
2 World War II in the Mariana Islands
3 The War’s Aftermath
4 from Processions to Parades
5 The Land without Heroes
6 on the Margins of Memory and History
7 on the Life and Death of father Dueñas