A vintage photograph of British-held rural Japan

The Material Culture of Japanese-Held Captives in WWII British Asia

Wednesday 13th January 2016, 1.30 - 3.30pm; Room B.13, 32 Lincoln's Inn Fields (32L), Speaker: Dr Felicia Yap; Chair: Dr Kirsten Schulze

This seminar analyses the material culture of migrating Allied captives during the Japanese occupation of British Asia. It focuses largely on the experiences of civilians in occupied Hong Kong, while citing examples from Malaya, Singapore and Borneo as supplementary case studies.

The seminar explores, firstly, the nature, significance and impact of objects carried into internment camps of the Japanese. To this end, it discusses how the selection of objects brought into captivity often reflected prevailing norms, values and conceptions (or misconceptions) of what incarceration entailed. It also elucidates the ways in which these objects - and the objects left behind - reflected the emotional and psychological states of these individuals. In many instances, their reduced material circumstances also resulted in the reassessment of personal belief systems. These changes became apparent at the end of the war, for the objects brought out of the camps in August 1945 often reflected new values.

The seminar connects these objects to the private and collective memories of ex-internees and their reasons for retaining specific mementoes of their time in captivity.

Download and listen to the podcast here



Felicia Yap is an Associate of the LSE Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre, and Affiliate of the Centre of South Asian Studies at Cambridge University.




Kirsten Schulze is Deputy Director of the Saw Swee Hock Southeast Asia Centre and Associate Professor in International History at LSE.