Workshop: Writing the War in Asia


This project aims at introducing a more nuanced view of the 'Great War in Asia'[1], which commenced in earnest with the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. Thus far, Western scholarship on World War II has been dominated by a rather Euro-centric view on events and experiences, drawing almost exclusively on Western testimonies. Moreover, the conflict in Asia is still largely seen in terms of full-scale involvement of Western powers which started in 1941 and which has been labelled the ‘Pacific War’. China specialists, on the other hand, have viewed the war in Asia first and foremost in terms of Chinese ‘national resistance’, starting as early as 1931. They often overlook the diasporic connections that linked its expression, understanding, and even funding to Southeast Asia.

The primary aim of this project is to recover and make available a variety of sources articulating the wartime experiences of Asian agents - from Myanmar to Manchuria.[2] It will attempt to clarify, for instance, whether these agents imagined themselves as participants in a regional or a global war, or whether they perceived of the conflict as a struggle for their local community or nation. The project seeks to uncover how the social traumas and transformations generated by the conflict had been felt and articulated throughout the region by Asians from different walks of life. This will result in a cross-cultural and interconnected reading of the war in Asia and hopes to stimulate interdisciplinary exchange between the disciplines of history and the area studies in particular.

[1]For the concept of the ‘Great Asian War’, see: Christopher Bayly, Tim Harper, Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain’s Asian Empire, London: Allen Lane, 2007, p. 7.

[2]The project seeks to expand recent scholarship that attempts to put the ‘world’ back into the academic study of the World Wars. See: Heike Liebau, et al. (eds.), The World in World Wars: Experiences, Perceptions and Perspectives from Africa and Asia, Leiden: Brill, 2010.

  • FB Geschichte,Soziologie,Sportw. u. emp. Bildungsf.
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Laufzeit: 01.07.2013 – 31.12.2013