Dr Hamzah Muzaini

The Kranji War Memorial and Cemetery (KWMC) is a site in Singapore dedicated to the individuals from the Allied countries who died defending Malaya (or what is today Malaysia and Singapore) against invading Japanese forces during the Second World War. Unveiled in 1957, and maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, it is where the bodies of 4,458 servicemen are laid out in rows of marked graves, and the names of 24,346 soldiers, sailors, and airmen inscribed on the walls of the Singapore Memorial to commemorate those for whom no remains could be identified. Within the confines of the cemetery grounds, there are also the State Cemetery, the Military Graves for Commonwealth soldiers who died during the Konfrontasi and Malayan Emergency, a memorial for the cremated Hindu war dead and a Chinese Memorial honouring Chinese servicemen who served and died during the war. KWMC is thus a highly poignant site symbolic not only of the heavy cost of conflict but also one that resonates with visitors from a wide range of nationalities, ethnicities, and religions.

While there have been studies done on the material designs and underlying symbolism of KWMC, as well as similar cemeteries that are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves all around the world, there has been a relative paucity in works that focus on how these sites are actually experienced on the ground. In the light of this, my planned research project seeks to reveal the plethora of ways in which the KWMC may be personally (as well as collectively) appreciated by individuals who bring along with them a plethora of backgrounds, subjectivities and motivations for visiting. In doing so, the project seeks to identify the different sources of affective and emotional energies embodied (as well as enacted) by/at the KWMC that impact upon its visitors both in planned as well as unplanned ways. During the forthcoming Remembrance Day (11 November 2018), I will be observing the memorial activities that will be taking place at the KWMC on the day and keeping track of what people will be saying and doing as they go about carrying out their memory work.