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Experience, memory and the construction of the past : remembering Macau 1941-1945 Cannon, Melania Dawn

Abstract

During most of the Second World War, from the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 to the Japanese surrender in 1945, the Portuguese colony of Macau was the only neutral territory in the Pacific. During these years the colony served as a haven for hundreds of thousands who were fleeing Japanese expansion. A central aspect of Macau's war experience was the internal life of the colony. However, little or no published or archival material is available on this subject. Accordingly, the only feasible way to study this aspect of the territory's history is to draw on the testimony of those who in fact did experience wartime conditions in Macau. For the interview process, subjects were selected who belong to a distinct ethno-cultural group that has emerged from Macau's Portuguese and Chinese heritages - the Macanese. Besides the Macanese community resident in Macau, there are also several diasporic communities around the world. Many members of these communities spent the duration of the war in Macau as refugees, and the interview process clearly showed that members of the diasporic and resident Macanese communities had qualitatively different memories of the Second World War. Furthermore, the recollections of the Portuguese Jesuit priest Father Manuel Teixeira have played a prominent if idiosyncratic role in perceptions of Macau's Second World War experience, and so his testimony is discussed in relation to that of the Macanese. The way in which those interviewed expressed their perceptions of the past seemed to be rooted in and shaped by their experiences both before and since the war. Memory is, in other words, a construct. By analysing these narrated memories in terms of the existing theoretical literature on oral history and collective memory, this thesis strives to shed light on the connections between experience, memory, and the construction of the Second World War in the resident and diasporic Macanese communities.

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