The Fifth Cold War Oral History Workshop: Reconceptualizing the Cold War

The Fifth Cold War Oral History Workshop: Reconceptualizing the Cold War

"Reconceptualizing the Cold War: On-the-ground Experiences in Asia" Project Workshop

14 February 2022 - 26 February 2022

Online Workshop via Zoom & Google Docs

The 5th Cold War Oral History Workshop: "Reconceptualizing the Cold War" will be held in February 2022. Due to the COVID-19 situation, we will have a virtual workshop, with using Google Docs and Zoom. We will upload and introduce a paper every day, and everyone will have a chance to comment on peer's paper, day by day.

Event Details

Exploring Cold War Malaya

Day 1 (Feb 14): Pa Huan Kuai (National University of Singapore), "Becoming Literate: Youth, women and the Socialist Front of Malaya": This paper explores experience of Chinese youth and women who joined the Socialist Front in Malaysia, who were labelled by the Malaysian government as "communist subversives." While her research mainly focuses on the 60s, Pa Kuan Huai also provides a longer context from the 40s-70s. She argues that her interviewees' original motivation of joining the Socialist Front was their literacy training rather than its political ideology. But, her narrative also reveals a gradual and mutual reinforcement of the binary contentious politics between the government and the activists.

Day 2 (Feb 15): Cheng Yi-meng (Peking University), "Home is Far Away: The Localization of the Overseas Chinese in Singapore and Malaya during the 1950s": This paper focuses on how the perceptions of the middle class overseas Chinese regarding mainland China shifted in the 1950s. He considers mainland China's policy on and overseas Chinese' perceptions of land reform were key issues in this shift from their solidarity with their "homeland" to alienation of "red China."

Day 3 (Feb 16): Hema Kiruppalini (National University of Singapore), "Saviors of Asiatics or Cannon Fodders for Imperialists?: Revisiting the history of Gurkhas and their families during the Malayan Emergency": This paper explores how the roughly 2000 Nepali military servicemen who operated during the Malayan Emergency under the British command have been represented in media and how their country’s social conditions led them to the military service. By doing this, she points to the gap between the prevalent representations such as “saviors of Asiatics” and “cannon fodders for imperialists” on one hand, and the Gurkhas’ lack of choice under extreme poverty. The paper implies that the Cold War as a global confrontation was a secondary issue for the Nepali “mercenaries,” in view of their subsistence.

Day 4 (Feb 17): Jason Ng Sze Chieh (New Era University College, Malaysia), "Malay Responses to Marxism in Malaya": This paper tells a less-known history of the "Malay Left," a group of Malays who embraced Marxism in the 1920s-1930s. It describes how a massive influx of Chinese & Indian immigrants to British Malaya upset the demographic landscape, outnumbering local Malay populations, and how a group of conservative Malays adopted Marxism with the hope of preserving their traditional ways of life and socio-political order. The paper argues that it was fear of being pushed aside socially and economically by the increasingly brazen immigrants such as the Chinese that spurred the Malay Left into action, igniting a nativist type of Malay leftist nationalist movement in the late 1920s and 1930s.

Exploring Cold War Thailand and India

Day 5 (Feb 18): Phianphachong Intarat: "Cold War Home Front: An Oral History of My Late Father in the Group of Local Teachers for People": The paper is based on oral history interviews about the author's late father, who was involved in the "Group of Local Teachers for People," a left-oriented group in Northern Thailand in the late 1970s. The paper aims to show the heterogeneity of a social situation dubbed as "the ideological warfare between the right-wing and the left-wing" in 1970s Thailand, and how such "ideological warfare" unfolded in an intimate setting of the author's family. Eventually, the author argues that the leftist politics of the "Group of Local Teachers For People" was largely driven by social injustice and personal aspirations in the local contexts.

Day 6 (Feb 19): Mythri P.U. (Malayalam Univ, India): "Seven Lived Experiences of the Naxalite Movement in Kerala, India: Reconsidering Cold War Narratives of Communist Insurgencies": The paper is based on her oral history interviews and archival research on the Naxalite Movement in Kerala, India in the 1970s, which is often viewed simply as Maoist adventurism or hooliganism. Focusing on the activities of tribal communities and women, the paper argues that their struggles were against local customs of slavery and caste discrimination, as well as those for the land rights and better wages. It reveals the everyday experiences of the people who participated in the movement.

Exploring Cold War Indonesia

Day 7 (Feb 21): Juliette Sendra (University of Aix-Marseille, France), "History from the Below: On-the-ground Experiences of 1965 Repression and the Suharto's New Order": Based on oral history and ethno-historical research of two villages in the mountainous Gunung Kidul area in the southeast of Yogjakarta, Indonesia, the paper explores the social history of these two villages, the 1965 Repression, and transformation during the Suharto regime. It traces the course of the killings and the configurations of violence, highlighting reappropriations of the logics of state repression, as well as the avoidance strategies of the villagers.

Day 8 (Feb 22): Robert Moisa, "Religious Ritual Structures and Their Role in 1965-1966 Anti-Communist Mass-killings in Bali": This paper explores whether the religious rituals and magical symbols carried important roles during the 1965 Indonesian mass-killings. The central question of this paper is: Did rituals intensify the 1965-1966 killings in Bali? If so, in what ways? The paper argues that the rituals justified killings, functioning to unite the perpetrators and to restore "harmony" and "social order." In showing this aspect, the paper could bring a new light upon understanding better the involvement of militias and civilians in this massacre.

Day 9 (Feb 23): Siti Zainatul Umarah, "The Closure of Chinese Schools in Cold War Indonesia, 1948-1975": This paper explores the experiences of overseas Chinese in post-WWII Indonesia who went through racial discrimination and violence. Based on archival research and oral history interviews with Chinese survivors, it traces the rise and fall of Chinese schools, against the backdrop of governmental pressures and popular anti-Chinese sentiments in Indonesian society at that time. It shows how Chinese communities carried out cultural resistance to save their educational institutions, and how Cold War & anti-communist logic effectively curtailed such efforts, contributing to the closure of many Chinese schools.

Exploring Cold War Thailand and India

Day 10 (Feb 24): Elgin Glenn Salomon ((Univeristy of the Philippines)), "Testimonial Narratives of the Tausug Survivors: The 1974 Battle of Jolo and the Militarization of the Cold War Philippines": This paper looks at the Islamic secessionist movement in the southern Philippines, which adopted the Maoist tactics and eventually set off the 1974 Battle of Jolo between the Tausug Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, causing the 2/3 of the town left in ashes, with many casualties. The paper describes how the Muslims in Mindanao and southern islands were marginalised following the post-WWII Christian migrations, how they adopted Maoist tactics to protect "Hula (homeland)," and how the Marcos govt used the Red-baiting politics to discredit and crush the movement.

Day 11 (Feb 25): Veronica Sison (Univeristy of the Philippines), "The Danger is Internal: The Filipino Soldiers' Experiences in the Early Cold War Philippines": Based on oral history interviews and archival research, her paper narrates ordinary soldiers' views on the Huks (People's Army Against the Japanese) and American sponsored-Filipino guerrillas during & following WWII, as well as those on US-backed Philippine Armed Forces' corruptions and Magsaysay's military reform. In doing so, the paper argues that the fundamental issues in the post-WWII Philippines were the internal ones, and that ordinary soldiers' experiences cannot be subsumed under the Cold War bipolarity, thus challenging the conventional narratives of the "Cold War Philippines."

Exploring Cold War Vietnam

Day 12 (Feb 26): Nguyen Diu-Huong (University of California Irvine): "Mightier Than The Sword: The Wartime South as Reflected in the Literary Vision of the ‘Five She-Devils'": The paper explores the literature world of the Republic of Viet Nam in the 1954-75 years, with a particular focus on the appearance of the "Five She-Devils"--a group consisting of five female writers all in their twenties, who firmly marked their positions with their best-selling publications at that time. Through depicting everyday struggles in the wartime South, these authors' works, argues the paper, reflected dynamic social transformations including many sensitive issues, such as gender and sexual norms, challenging long-held social restrictions and spearheading feminist position in the changing society.