Dutch-Japanese Encounters: Gendered Experiences Of The Japanese Occupation Of The Netherlands East Indies

Friday, July 18, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: 501
Oral Presentation
Aya EZAWA , Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands
This paper examines the stories of women who transgressed national and racial boundaries by entering a relationship with the ‘enemy’ during the Pacific War: Indo-European women (with Dutch citizenship) who conceived a child with a Japanese man during the Japanese occupation of the Netherlands East Indies (1942-45). To date, their actions remain highly controversial in the Netherlands, as they apparently willingly engaged with an enemy that even now evokes strong emotions for subjecting large parts of the Dutch civilian population to three years of internment. Unlike Comfort Women, they have not received recognition for their wartime experience in form of pensions for war victims, as they were considered as collaborators, opportunists and prostitutes. The treatment they suffered by their own families and communities left deep scars in the lives of women and their children, and evokes memories that are often too painful to articulate even in private. The persisting silence surrounding the origins of their children constitutes an important starting point to investigate the political and social processes that have defined the ‘truth’ and memory of the war and women’s experiences of the occupation. Their stories reveal that their actions not only contradicted the wartime enemy image, but also the prevailing ideologies of women’s expected relationship to the nation and its men. Based on Japanese and Dutch archival documents, including interrogation reports and accounts of mothers themselves, and 21 life history interviews with children born of these unions, I reconstruct the wartime experiences of these mothers from the perspective of their children. Their stories not only shed light on women’s agency and their gendered experience of life and survival during the Japanese occupation, but also a family and community discourse, that continues to marginalize and silence women and children within the history and memory of the Japanese occupation.