A balanced, sensitive study of the history of comfort women in Singapore during World War II.
“Comfort women” or ianfu is the euphemism used by the Japanese military for the women they compelled to do sex work in the Second World War, and has become the term generally used in English to discuss the subject. The role of comfort women in the Japanese empire during World War II remains an important and emotional topic around the world. Most scholarship concentrates on Korean comfort women, with less on their counterparts in Japan, China, and Taiwan, and even less on Southeast Asia. That gap persists despite widespread knowledge of the elaborate series of comfort stations, or comfort houses, that were organized by the Japanese administration across Singapore during the Occupation from 1942 to 1945. So why, the author asks, did no former comfort women from Singapore come forward and tell their stories when others across Asia began to do publicly in the 1990s?
To understand this silence, this book offers a detailed examination of the sex industry serving the Japanese military during the wartime occupation of Singapore: the comfort stations, managers, procuresses, girls, and women who either volunteered or were forced into service and in many cases sexual slavery. Kevin Blackburn then turns from history to the public presence of the comfort women in Singapore’s memory, including newspapers, novels, plays, television, and touristic heritage sites, showing how comfort women became known in Singapore during the 1990s and 2000s. Bringing great care, balance, and sensitivity to a difficult subject, Blackburn helps to fill an important gap in our understanding of this period.
A study of interlocutor reference that significantly deepens our understanding of the ways in which self-other relations are linguistically mediated in social interaction, based on the analysis of Southeast Asian languages.
Terms used by speakers to refer to themselves and their interlocutors form one of the ways that language expresses, defines, and creates a field for working out social relations. Because this field of study in sociolinguistics historically has focused on Indo-European languages, it has tended to dwell on references to the addressee—for example, the choice between tu and vous when addressing someone in French. This book uses the study of Southeast Asian languages to theorize interlocutor reference more broadly, significantly deepening our understanding of the ways in which self-other relations are linguistically mediated in social interaction. As the authors explain, Southeast Asian systems exceed in complexity and nuance the well-described cases of Europe in two basic ways. First, in many languages of Southeast Asia, a speaker must select an appropriate reference form not only for other/addressee but also for self/speaker. Second, in these languages, in addition to pronouns, speakers draw upon a range of common and proper nouns including names, kin terms, and titles, in referring to themselves and the addressee. Acts of interlocutor reference, therefore, inevitably do more than simply identify the speaker and addressee; they also convey information about the proposed relation between interlocutors. Bringing together studies from both small-scale and large, urbanized communities across Mainland and Insular Southeast Asia, this is an important contribution to the regional linguistic and anthropological literature.
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