Commemoration reconsidered: Second World War veterans reunion as a pilgrimage

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This article recognises the crucial role cultural and social contexts play in shaping individual and collective recollections. Such recollections involve multiple, intertwined levels of experience in the real world such as commemorating a war. Thus, the commemoration practised in a particular context deserves an empirical investigation. The methodological approach taken is naturalistic, as it situates commemoration as remembering and recollection in the real world of things and people. I consider the case of a war veterans' reunion as an analogy for a pilgrimage, and in that pilgrimage-like transformative process, we can observe the dynamics of remembering that is mediated with artefacts and involves people's interactions with the social environment. Furthermore, remembering, recollection and commemorating the war can be approached in terms of embodied interactions with culturally and historically organised materials. In this article, I will review the relevant literature on key topics and concepts including pilgrimage, transformation and liminality and communitas in order to create a theoretical framework. I present an analysis and discussion on the ethnographic fieldwork on the Burma Campaign (of the Second World War) veterans' reunion. The article strives to contribute to the critical forum of memory research, highlighting the significance of a holistic and interdisciplinary exposition of the vital role context plays in the practice of commemorating war.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-353
Number of pages15
JournalMemory Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2014


  • commemoration
  • social remembering
  • pilgrimage
  • transformation
  • liminality
  • communitas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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