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Emotional Remembering: The Pragmatics of National Memory



This paper examines spaces in between the "out there" of collective representation and the "in here" of personal cognition and emotion by focusing on acts of public remembrance that are at once individual and collective, personal and national. Reporting on research carried out at the U.S. national memorial to the bombing attack at Pearl Harbor that drew America into World War II, the paper analyzes the discourse of "survivors" who present personal stories in the memorial context. The analysis argues that a repertoire of discursive strategies functions to emotionalize national narrative, while at the same time works to nationalize personal pasts.
Remembering: The
National Memory
ABSTRACT This paper examines spaces in between the "out
there" of collective representation and the "in here" of personal
cognition and emotion by focusing on acts of public remem-
brance that are at once individual and collective, personal and
national. Reporting on research carried out at the U.S. national
memorial to the bombing attack at Pearl Harbor that drew
America into World War II, the paper analyzes the discourse of
"survivors" who present personal stories in the memorial con-
text. The analysis argues that a repertoire of discursive strate-
gies functions to emotionalize national narrative, while at the
same time works to nationalize personal pasts.
ne of the core problems of psychological anthropology
possibly the core problem in recent decades—has been the
relation of individual selves to the collective representa-
tions and productions of culture. From Durkheim and Freud
to Geertz and Spiro, this relationship has been conceptual-
ized in terms of interior worlds of individual thought and feeling set in oppo-
sition to collective or "cultural" systems of shared meaning. Despite wide
theoretical differences concerning the kinds of variables one might need for
an adequate theory of social action, most modern paradigms have separated
the "psychological" from the "cultural," and the "individual" from the "col-
lective." In this paper
want to complicate these binaries by examining the
spaces in between: practices that traverse the "out there" of collective rep-
resentation and the "in here" of personal cognition and emotion.
focus par-
ticularly on acts of remembrance that represent and enact national identity
in performative acts that are at once individual and collective, personal and
In line with the "pragmatic turn" identified by O'Nell and Desjarlais in
their introduction to this collection, the investigation of representational
Ethos 27(4):505-529. Copyright
American Anthropological Association.
practices requires attention not only to cultural texts, but to the contexts
within which those texts are marked as significant for individual lives and
identities. To attend to both text and context is to notice that neither is
fixed or singular, but usually in play, being made up or routinized in the
course of interaction. So, for example, historical narratives as texts have
no determinate meaning and certainly no given emotive significance for
individuals. In contrast, acts of narrating historical events are always ac-
companied by metacommunicative signs that index relations between
speaker, audience(s) and events represented, including emotions that
mark the involvement of speakers and audiences in the narrated past.
The metaphor of internalization is often used to conceptualize the
process whereby cultural symbols and texts obtain emotional significance
for the individual, presupposing separate spheres of collective culture and
individual psychology. In this metaphor, symbols or texts become per-
sonal when they are interpreted and processed by individual minds, where
they are inflected by the experiential memory of the cognizing subject. But
what is it that is internalized? Cultural meaning, like the
emerges in
dialectic relations between minds and other persons and texts. The liabil-
ity of the internalization metaphor is that it directs attention away from
practices of representation that fix (however momentarily) the relevance
and value of performed identities for individuals and collectivities. Texts
obtain their cultural significance in public spheres of interaction where
they are framed by metacommunicative markers that signal their value for
interlocutors, especially their relevance for key social identities.
Throughout the 20th century, national identities have been among
the most powerful and contested foci for social and emotional identifica-
tion. And within the arena of nation-making, one of the most common
means of creating national consciousness has been historical narra-
tive—stories about the collective past that, when repeated and conven-
tionalized, become national histories. So, for example, in a recent essay
on emergent nationalisms in postcolonial Melanesia, John Kelly asks,
"What makes a nation if a state doesn't (and perhaps, even if a state
To this he answers, simply: "A narrative" (1995:257). Kelly's view
resonates with Benedict Anderson's (1983) widely cited concept of the
nation as "imagined community." Both emphasize the symbolic and con-
structed nature of national identities, enabled by cultural forms and com-
municative media capable of reaching dispersed populations.
Yet, if left at the level of narrative as text, how is it that certain narra-
tives gain truth value, repeatability, and emotional force? Even though
nationalisms have been of interest precisely because they evoke strong
feelings, the dominant theories of nationalism have focused less on the
formation of national subjectivities than on the cultural-symbolic bases of
shared identity and discourse structures that enforce ideological hegem-
Emotional Remembering 507
ony. I low do national narratives engender a sense of belonging or acquire
emotional valence for individual speakers and audiences? This question is
less about national identity as a cultural construct than about processes of
identification through which national narrative and self narrative interre-
late (Bruner 1990; Ochs and Gapps 1996).
National narrative is actively produced in social contexts where
meaning, value, and emotion are all at risk. In these contexts, collective
histories and sentiments are interactively formed as people variously
learn, argue over, celebrate, and resist representations of the past. In the
analysis that follows, I explore the production of national identity and
emotion in contexts where personal stories and collective histories inter-
twine. How are these genres of personal and collective discourse marked
in ordinary talk, and how do they inform and validate one another? In
addressing this question, this paper considers two discursive means used
to interpolate personal narrative and national history: (1) the use of pro-
nouns (/ and we), and other indexical signs to link personal and collective
perspective in narrative performance (Benveniste 1966; Urban 1989); and
(2) the use of personal stories as allegories to embody and emotionalize
national histories.
are going to ask what stories get "internalized," we must also ask
what stories get "externalized." Who is telling what stories to whom, in
what contexts, how often, with what effects? More importantly for this
paper, how do certain externalizations become fixed through repetition
and institutionalization such that they gain the status of collective or cul-
tural texts? Silverstein and Urban (1996) use the term entextualized to
describe the routinization of discourse through repetition and/or institu-
tionalization. In their view, "entextualized discourse . . . can maintain its
status as emblematic of the culture only if there are periodic reperfor-
mances or re-embeddings in actual discourse contexts that count as pro-
jectively 'the same'" (1996:13).
Here I look at the process of entextualization in one particular, highly
institutionalized site: the public memorial to the bombing of Pearl Harbor
that propelled the United States into World War II. The public recitation
of key moments of the national past works to solidify and emotionalize
collective history. In particular, the voice of "survivors" plays a key role
in both entextualizing and personalizing national memory. Survivor dis-
course is part of most memorial sites. At the Pearl Harbor memorial, a
small number of military survivors of the attack now volunteer to tell their
stories on a regular basis. I focus on one particular veteran's public pres-
entation of his experience, drawing on interviews and observations con-
ducted during several years of on-and-off fieldwork at the memorial.
As institutions devoted to social acts of remembrance, public memo-
rials would seem to be almost the prototypic Durkheimian institution.
Self-consciously constructed for the purpose of curating collective mem-
ory, memorials employ all manner of semiotic means to convey messages
about the shared past marked as both politically and emotionally signifi-
cant. Yet, in today's complex social spaces traversed by a multitude of
publics, memorials are as likely to elicit boredom and contestation as any-
How, then, does historical discourse create and sustain national
sentiment? In these contexts, acts of "remembering" bring personal mem-
ory and collective history into the same discursive space, thereby working
to simultaneously emotionalize history and nationalize understandings of
self and community.
Approaching national narrative not as text, but as interactively pro-
duced social understanding illuminates the interplay of institutional, cog-
nitive, and emotional forces that make them up (Holquist 1981; Wertsch
Having said this, culture theory today has made much of the unsta-
partial, and contested nature of cultural representations, while show-
ing less interest in processes that essentialize and emotionalize dominant
constructions. As Grapanzano describes, selves are always emergent in
social interaction, although much of that interaction is concerned pre-
cisely with producing momentary "arrests" in the dialectics of selfhood
For national selves, some of the most powerful arrests occur in
public spaces devoted to institutionalizing national memories. Beginning
with the observation that memorial spaces are frequently highly emotion-
alized spaces, I look at the pragmatic role of emotion, and of emotionality,
in processes of identification.
I take up these issues in the context of one of America's sacred sites
of war memory: the national memorial to the Pearl Harbor attack that
killed over 2,000 people and drew the United States into World War II.1
The Pearl Harbor memorial—formally named the
Arizona Memorial
after the sunken battleship Arizona that blew up, killing 1,177 crew
serves as a monumental reminder of the attack and the deaths associated
with it. The memorial and its visitor center make up a complex institution
that tells its stories to diverse audiences using multiple representational
strategies. The presence of Pearl Harbor survivors who tell their stories at
the memorial on a day-to-day basis personifies national history, reminding
those who move through the memorial that its stories are about events
within living memory, even if just on its very edge, about to pass into the
realm of textually mediated history. My purpose here is to ask how, in this
context, survivor discourse works to create a sense of personal, emotional
participation in the Memorial's history.
Given the power of war to affect whole populations, nations every-
where have undertaken to institutionalize war memory (or war memories)
Emotional Remembering 509
in the service of national imagination. Within these spheres of remem-
brance, the voices of those who experienced war are among the most
prominent and resonant over time. Frequently recorded and projected on
a larger national screen through films, books, and mass media, such voices
speak about national and global events in the idiom of personal experi-
For some who have lived through particularly intense, traumatic
moments of war and wholesale killing such as the Holocaust or the atomic
bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, such events can become life-defin-
ing moments, establishing their identities as "survivors." As the genera-
tion of survivors passes away, their experiences are often retained in the
form of first-person narratives represented in popular media and key sites
of public memory. Nation-states frequently work to institutionalize these
sorts of survivor narrative in sites such as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial
Museum or the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum—places that double
as sites of pilgrimage and as centers of public education.
Even though combat veterans are also survivors of war, their experi-
ences are not usually packaged in this way, perhaps because battlefield
experiences have long been normalized by conventional military histories.
One of the exceptions to this is the group of veterans who lived through
the Pearl Harbor attack. For them, the survivor identity is institutionalized
in a national organization of the same name, "Pearl Harbor Survivors,"
with local chapters all over the country. Membership rules state that any-
one who was serving in the military on the island of Oahu on December 7,
is eligible to join. Pearl Harbor Survivors constitute themselves in
much the same way that all veterans' organization do: with local meetings,
reunions, anniversary ceremonies, and marching in parades, as well as
distinctive emblems and forms of dress.
Today however, nearly 60 years after the bombing, Pearl Harbor sur-
vivors are a declining population. Indeed, they often joke about their age,
talking about themselves as "endangered species" and so forth. For the
Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor survivors are a privileged constituency,
holding national ceremonies there every five years (the last took place
December 7, 1996, on the 55th anniversary of the bombing). On a more
regular basis, a handful of Pearl Harbor survivors living in Honolulu volun-
teer their time at the Memorial to talk about their experiences and help
out in other ways. On any given day, two or three survivors may be found
on the grounds of the visitor center giving talks, answering questions, and
doing various jobs for the Park Service.
In the context of the Memorial, survivor stories are simultaneously
personal recollections and constitutive of larger narratives of nation. It is
this ambiguity, in this context, that is significant. Survivors re-create "his-
events in the idiom of personal experience, giving collective history
meaning through the recitation of individual life stories. In these contexts,
personal stories become allegories of national agency. Much of the talk of
the survivors at the Memorial interweaves collective history and personal
reminiscence in ways that alternate between the referential style of report-
age and the confessional style of testimonials. In speaking from the van-
tage point of experience, survivors talk in the conversational formats of
ordinary speech, rather than in the generalized distillations of history
educational lectures, or documentary films.
The presence of survivor testimony in the context of a historic site
and memorial, alongside museum exhibits, history texts, a documentary
film, and interpretive lectures by the National Park Service, inevitably
calls attention to contrasts between popular notions of "history" and
"memory" (Gedi and Elam 1996; Linenthal 1995; Nora 1989). The distinc-
tion between professionalized history and personal recollection lies be-
hind the common perception that survivors' talk is, at base, personal.2
Their involvement in their stories is communicated in a variety of ways,
including features of voice and emotion that index connections between
the subjectivity of the speaker and objects of representation.
Originally forged in the context of a nation mobilizing for war, images
of Pearl Harbor continue to be produced, first and foremost, for national
audiences—as a means of imagining the nation as a moral community.
The Arizona Memorial is operated by the National Park Service and the
Navy as a national park site within an active military base. While
Americans are empowered to voice their opinions about how national his-
tory is presented there (through, for example, letters to Congress),3 the
memorial is part of Honolulu's international tourist economy and hosts up
to 4,000 visitors a day, spanning a wide cultural, national, and generational
One of the dilemmas that confronts custodians of the Memorial (by
which I mean the Park Rangers and veteran volunteers who interpret his-
tory there) is that of creating a context within which statements about
Pearl Harbor acquire cultural importance or personal meaning. How do
acts of representation become moments of "remembrance"? After all,
when the name Pearl Harbor first entered the lexicon of American popular
culture, it was as an event not to be forgotten, with wartime songs, films,
and news media urging the national public to self-consciously "Remember
Pearl Harbor" for the war effort.
Park Rangers and veteran volunteers often talk about the problem of
conveying the importance of the Memorial to tourist audiences, of having
to counteract the mindset of people who see the place as just one more
recreational stop on a busy itinerary of sightseeing in Hawaii's tropical
Emotional Remembering 511
paradise. Anyone viewing the scene at the Visitor Center on a busy day as
throngs of vacationers mill about, taking in the harbor views and museum
exhibits as they await their turn to see the documentary film and take a
boat to the Memorial can readily understand the difficulty of defining the
space as a sacred site and burial place (Kelly 1996).4
For those who work at the Memorial, and many others who visit, there
is more at stake here than just reminding tourists to be respectful. There
is the ongoing need to valorize models of the past that are themselves in
jeopardy in the larger culture, and that require just the kind of public
affirmation afforded by a state-sponsored memorial site. In this setting,
performative acts of remembrance contextualize people's lives in relation
to the imagined communities of nations (instantiated, partly, by the small
audiences moving through the Memorial). By definition, representations
of Pearl Harbor in this context take on the significance of official, collective
history. The interpolation of the personal in historical narrative simulta-
neously gives experience collective significance and collective repre-
sentations personal meaning. This is one reason that representational
practices of the memorial are so closely monitored and regulated (eliciting
more letters to Congressional offices than any other location in the Na-
tional Park Service and National Monument system [see Linenthal 1993;
White 1997b]). It is also why the site is continually described as a deeply
emotional place.
One of the most commonly heard refrains in descriptions of the Me-
morial is that it evokes strong emotions. This is especially so for Pearl
Harbor survivors, World War II veterans, and Americans of the war gen-
eration (and their kin). When we surveyed responses to the Memorial's
documentary film in terms of a set of affect categories, for example, one of
the clearest findings was that older Americans report a greater intensity of
feeling, across the whole spectrum of emotions we asked about (White
At the center of this emotionality is the experience of death and loss,
signified most poignantly by the sunken ship as tomb for the crew of the
Arizona, most of whose bodies were never extracted, (see Inglis 1993).^
One of the major "interpretive themes" promoted by the Park Service,
especially through a documentary film shown to all visitors, is that the
Memorial is a place "deserving special respect." In drafting a standardized
set of remarks for use by Park Rangers introducing the film to visitors, park
historian Daniel Martinez characterized the Memorial in precisely these
The Memorial itself deserves special respect. The ship after all is the final resting place
for the crew of the Arizona. It is their tomb. Out of respect for this cemetery-like
atmosphere, we ask that you keep your voices low while at the Memorial. It is a place
where you can reflect on the past and contemplate the future. [Martinez 1997)
Having thus defined the memorial context as that of a cemetery or
tomb (rather than as a landmark, museum, or theme park), these prefatory
remarks turn to emotions, further establishing the nature of the context
by telling the audience that they are likely to react to the Memorial and its
history with strong emotions:
For most of you today, this journey back to the days of 1941
probably evoke some
kind of feeling or emotion: sadness, despair, maybe even anger. Places where tragic
events unfolded may evoke such feelings. For the people of Hawaii, the United States
and the world, lives were changed forever. World War II was now truly global. When
the smoke and the dust of the war settled in 1945, nearly 55 million people were dead.
[Martinez 1997, emphasis added]
These references to the emotionality of Pearl Harbor presuppose a
background theory of emotions as responses to important events, with
specific emotions signifying specific types of events. While allowing for a
range of different emotions, and, by implication, different interpretations
of the events that evoke them, these remarks nonetheless characterize the
history at hand as "tragic," and specify "sadness" and "despair" as likely
responses, with "anger" a lesser possibility. Here references to emotion
function as communicative markers that index the salience of certain
statements for their audiences, indicating that they acquire their signifi-
cance in relation to existing, valorized cultural models.
The discussion that follows explores some of the ways that expres-
sions of emotion in this context work to link interlocutors, social catego-
and represented events. Note that the text in the above passage moves
from a list of emotions to a list of identities (sadness, despair, and anger to
"the people of Hawaii, the United States, and the world"). This juxtaposi-
tion—in this case between emotions and an expanding circle of involve-
ment that ultimately makes the memorial a global memorial—is indicative
of the discursive function of emotions as markers of the relevance of nar-
rative for speakers and audiences.
No analysis of the textual productions of the Memorial will reveal the
diverse ways audiences comprehend them in relation to their own life-
worlds. Certainly some do not respond at all to talk of "tragic events." But
for many, the official Park Service definition of the situation as one likely
to evoke personal feelings foretells a broad range of affective responses. In
museums and other public places where shared history is interactively
produced, historical discourse frequently entails small acts of identifica-
tion, in which the subjectivity of viewers and objects of interpretation
come into mutually contingent relations. One of the primary means
through which this is accomplished at the Arizona Memorial is through
Pearl Harbor survivors who, by their very presence, embody the Pearl Har-
bor story as living history. In this way the past becomes present and per-
sonal, something that can be engaged as part of one's own interactive
Emotional Remembering 513
experience—if not one's ordinary life, at least as part of one's vacation to
exotic lands such as Hawai'i.
As part of my work at the Memorial, I have become familiar with a
number of the Pearl Harbor survivors who volunteer there. Beginning in
1994 with the assistance of Marjorie Kelly and the support of a grant from
the Wenner-Gren Foundation, I recorded about 40 hours of public presen-
tations and individual interviews with survivors. Since that time, I have
pursued more in-depth interviews with three of them, discussing their sto-
their own views of their activities at the Memorial, and their life his-
including always the events of the Pearl Harbor attack.
As an anthropologist entering this highly narrativized space, talking
to individuals who have taken on personae as witnesses to history and who
are interviewed frequently by journalists, writers, and video makers, my
interactions with veterans may also be interpreted as one more occasion
for telling often repeated stories.6 Even when framing an interview as fo-
cusing on "life history," the topic of Pearl Harbor—the events of the day
and its consequences—often predominates.
It may seem ironic that war memories that may be traumatic, re-
pressed, and hidden are also the object of public performance. This, how-
ever, is precisely the point. Many who lived through the Pearl Harbor
attack continue to have difficulty talking about their experiences, and only
over time have begun to discuss them. And, in fact, a number of the indi-
viduals who volunteer at the Memorial describe a transitional point in their
lives when they began to talk openly about Pearl Harbor. For some, the
50th anniversary of the attack in 1991 was such a transitional moment.
For others, finding the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association (PHSA), or be-
ginning to work at the Arizona Memorial proved to be the enabling expe-
Each survivor who volunteers at the Memorial has developed a dis-
tinctive set of activities for engaging people. They all wear a green Park
Service shirt and Pearl Harbor Survivor cap with the words "Pearl Harbor
Survivor" inscribed on the side (although these are also highly individual-
ized with pins and badges of all sorts). Most will assist in taking tickets and
introducing the documentary film as groups take their turns filing into the
theater. Others develop individual routines. Richard Fiske's style, for ex-
ample, is to walk the grounds of the visitor center with a three-ring binder
full of photos of his war experiences. The binder mediates his interaction
with people who engage him in conversation, often posing for photos. In
some cases, individual survivors have prepared organized talks for presen-
tation on a regular basis in the small museum. Of these, some present
personal stories while others give historical overviews of the events of the
attack, detailing casualties and bomb damage. One of the personal talks,
for example, is given by Reverend Joe Morgan, chaplain of the Oahu chap-
ter of the PIISA, who tells a story about a postwar encounter with the
Japanese commander of the attacking planes (who, incredibly, had himself
converted to Christianity). Morgan's story is presented as a parable for the
transformation of anger and hatred to forgiveness.
Consider now the way one survivor, Richard (Dick) Husted, presents
Pearl Harbor history (and his story) for museum audiences. In discussing
his museum presentations, I compare his recollections of the attack in
several distinct contexts, beginning with his presentations to museum
audiences, and then drawing upon information from interviews with him
and from a videotape in which Dick Husted tells his story as one of several
survivor recollections recorded by the National Park Service in 1996.
Dick Husted is a retired navy commander whose ship, the battleship
USS Oklahoma, suffered the second-greatest number of casualties in the
attack (at least 429 killed). Since 1991, Husted has been volunteering at
the Memorial two days a week during the six months of the year he lives
in Honolulu. He has a prepared talk that he presents in the museum twice
each morning, standing in front of a huge aerial photograph taken by one
of the Japanese planes looking down on "battleship row" under attack. As
he stands before the photograph with pointer in hand, he quickly attracts
the attention of visitors circulating through the museum. A cluster of peo-
ple gather around him, listening hard to his soft-spoken narration. Some
drift in and out of the listening area, while others skirt the edges/ Typi-
cally 10 to 20 people will remain attentive through the entire 45-minute
narrative. Some leave when they are called away to view the documentary
before they board the boats to see the memorial.
The panoptic aerial view of the scene of the attack displayed in the
museum photograph is well-suited to the kind of fact-driven historical
overview that Husted presents, using a pointer to indicate ships and loca-
tions referred to in his narrative. He is an avid reader of military history
and frequently refers to the knowledge he has gained from books about the
attack. He uses this background knowledge to present a summary account
of events on December 7, organized on a ship-by-ship basis, focusing on
the main battleships and the damage and casualties incurred by each dur-
ing the attack, while also drawing on his own personal experience.
Although Husted's talk is distilled from a variety of sources, he inter-
sperses his narrative with observations and anecdotes from his own experi-
ence as a navy veteran and as a survivor (which, in any case, is immediately
evident from his dress, including his cap, inscribed "Pearl Harbor Survi-
vor," and his self introduction). As most of the survivors do whenever they
address a group audience at the Memorial, Husted introduces himself by
Emotional Remembering 515
giving his name and military rank at the time of the attack. On one occa-
sion, when he started talking informally with two or three people and then
found himself with a larger group gathered for his talk, he interrupted him-
self to mark the beginning of his narrative with an introduction:
Back down, my name's Dick Husted.
I came out here aboard the battleship Oklahoma.
I was a seaman first class when this occurred.
The Oklahoma got out here December 6, 1940, a year and a day before this
happened (tape 97-2, 2/13/97)
Here Dick Husted places himself on his ship, one of the focal points for his
ship-centered narrative, and for Pearl Harbor iconography generally,
where photographs of exploding and burning ships have become the signa-
ture image of the attack. In his introduction, Husted locates himself in both
the time and space of the historic events he is going to talk about. And,
when he talks about coming "out here" aboard his ship, he further indexes
the location of the present speech event as the location of his story. Fur-
thermore, by identifying himself as both a veteran and a survivor, Husted
indicates that he not only talks from experience, but from the particular
experience of national military service.
Having introduced himself as a Pearl Harbor survivor and a U.S. Navy
veteran, Husted can talk in the subjective I-voice of personal experience.
He also talks in the third-person voice of documentary history, occasion-
ally referencing the texts where he finds his information (see below).
While these perspectives are sometimes placed in opposition, as contras-
tive modes of historiography, survivors frequently switch between them,
and even meld them in the voice of the national we, phrasing history as
collective experience.
We have recorded Dick Husted speaking in the museum on four sepa-
rate occasions over the course of three years. The narrative structure of
his presentations are highly consistent. He uses the plural voice in a vari-
ety of ways to frame his narrative: the "we" of the nation, the "we" of Pearl
Harbor survivors, the "we" of battleship sailors, and even the "we" of his-
torians (what "we" now know to have happened), in addition to the occa-
sional "we" of himself and the people listening to him.
First, the "we" of battleships and their crews. In setting the stage for
the attack, Ilusted talks about the reasons the battleships were in the har-
bor, describing events from the vantage point of the "we" of battleships and
their crew, a usage that implies a close identification between
and ships. (Although, as is conventional in navy talk, Ilusted typically per-
sonifies battleships with gendered pronouns "she" and "her.")
54 The reason the battleships were in, we couldn't keep up with the carriers.
55 Admiral Nimitz, or Kimmel rather, did not want us at sea without air protection.
56 Carriers could do 33 knots and we could only do 21.
57 In fact, task force two which my ship was part of. ... We came in Friday because
the carrier was putting to sea. . . . [tape 94—4, 2/8/94]
The second type of plural subjectivity evident in Husted's museum
talks is the "we" of the nation, referring in this case to America at war. In
these cases, it is his national identity as a citizen of the United States that
frames his speaking identity. For the most part, also, this identification lo-
cates the speaker in history as well, as a citizen at the moment of the out-
break of war, although there is some ambiguity whether the "we" in these
statements also encompasses the "we" of today's citizenry. For example:
112 We were at undeclared war in the North Atlantic.
113 We were loosing 50 percent of our shipping . . .
114 When this occurred here, we had already lost the destroyer Ruben James.
115 But it ended up we had three battle divisions out here . . . [tape 97-2; 2/13/97]
When referring to the same events when giving this talk on another oc-
casion, Husted added an aside that makes it clear that the "we" of Ameri-
cans is also the "we" of the older generation of Americans who experienced
the war:
433 By the way . . . we were at war before Pearl Harbor happened.
434 It was just an undeclared war. . . .
435 For you people in my
bracket, you remember the Ruben James sunk up
there. .. .
436 So we were at war whether people wanted to admit it or not. [tape 94-4, 2/8/94]
This is typical of the way in which Husted interjects commentary about as-
pects of shared (or unshared) knowledge that implicate himself and his lis-
teners in the same social and temporal frame of reference.
Lastly, Husted speaks in the "we" of history or, rather, historians who
share a vantage point from the informed present. Two passages serve to il-
145 [pointing to the aerial photograph] This is the .Arizona . . .
146 We really don't know how many bombs actually hit her.
147 We know of two definitely.
148 The guys that survived, there were 334 survivors . . .
243 [The bomb] went all the way down and came in on the starboard side here
right adjacent to number one and number two turret.
244 And we estimate maybe seven levels below before it exploded.
245 It either exploded in or adjacent to, doesn't make much difference, the
magazine for the two forward guns, [tape 97-2, 2/13/97]
Just as Dick Husted shifts between vantage points in different parts of
his narrative, he may also shift voices within the same stretch of talk. The
rapidity of this in some instances reflects the ease with which perspectives
can be combined by a narrator who occupies multiple subject positions. In
some of the most poignant passages of his talk, the subject is the wartime
navy. For example, when he describes attempts to rescue sailors trapped
Emotional Remembering 517
inside sunken and capsized ships after the bombing, the principle actor is
Navy, referenced as both
and "they" in alternating sentences.
In the excerpt below, he tells about of the fate of three crew members of the
West Virginia who were trapped below decks and finally died after two
weeks of pounding on the hull to attract help.
375 We couldn't have got down to them.
376 They didn't know where the noise was coming from, number one.
377 Number two we had the old hard hats with the air hose and the big cumber-
some rubber suits.
378 When they raised the ship in '42 and found out where they were at, they
couldn't have gotten down to them with modern equipment [tape 97-2, 2/13/97, em-
phasis added]
In the course of describing the attack, Husted frequently makes these
kinds of shifts in
The longest stretches of talk describe events and ac-
tions in third-person, although these are at times personalized with the use
of first-person pronouns or with the interjection of stories about individual
experience. Shifting between "they" and "we" also reflects a broader dual-
ity of history and memory that pervades (American) discourses of the past.
Many of the survivors who volunteer at the Memorial utilize both text-
based modes of historical authority (sometimes accompanied by refer-
ences to sources)8 as well as confessional speech that derives its authority
from experience. In general, it is only war veterans and Pearl Harbor survi-
vors who talk in the first person about the actual events memorialized at
Pearl Harbor. And it is the park historians, curators, and interpreters who
speak in the mode of professionalized public history, distilled in a more ref-
erential language that must utilize quoted speech and other devices to per-
sonalize narrative representation.
Of all the genres of public history presented by the Park Service, the
documentary film speaks in the most consistent, authoritative voice. It
gives an eloquent, 25-minute overview of the Pearl Harbor attack, using
newsreel footage and visual images from the period to give a referential
commentary about what happened and why. Although producers of the
film made a strategic decision not to include personalized stories about
individual, heroic acts, it also mixes referential and subjective voices
(White 1997a). Marking its shifts between past and present by transitions
from color film to black and white, the film concludes its narrative in the
plural "we," asking:
How shall we remember them, those who died?. . . .
Let our grief for the men of the Arizona be for all those whose futures were taken from
them on December 7th, 1941. [Martinez 1997]
Here the "we" voice links audience and narrator in a kind of collective
agency, framing the occasion of film-viewing and memorial visiting as
performative acts of memory and the emotional expression of
the rhetorical "we" here extends, potentially, to a global audience, the
practical exigencies of language and translation restrict the film's reach. A
limiting case is the Japanese audience members who speak little English
and, until two years ago, listened to the film without the benefit of trans-
lations (now provided by rented earphones).
There is a certain similarity between Richard Husted's style of narrat-
ing Pearl Harbor and the film's somewhat unusual mixture of documentary
and testimonial style. The film was made to specifically prepare audiences
for visiting the Memorial. Like Richard I lusted, the film presents retro-
spective views from the vantage point of the present, informed by contem-
porary historical knowledge. But Husted also speaks as one who was there.
Although he may draw from texts, the reason he talks to audiences at the
Memorial, and the main reason people are interested in listening to him,
is his identity as a survivor.
The example below, taken from one of Dick Husted's museum talks, il-
lustrates one way that Husted personalizes historical narrative by splicing
in his own subjectivity into a larger history, which in this case, he con-
structs as a sequential review of damage to ships and human casualties.
Here he discusses the fate of the USS Utah, where 57 men died when the
ship was torpedoed and rolled over while tied up at its dock. Pointing to the
Utah in the aerial photograph, Husted refers to the ship's Chief Petty Offi-
cer, Peter Thomas, who died while going back into the ship to save some of
his men. As a medal of honor winner, Thomas is often mentioned in Pearl
Harbor histories. In this instance, Husted notes that, like Thomas, he, too,
had been a Chief Petty Officer in his navy career, thereby connecting him-
self with the narrative through a principle of similarity.
90 But anyhow, you can see the old Utah is startin' to capsize right there [pointing
to the aerial photograph].
91 There's 57 souls aboard her.
92 She's the only ship that remains out here, outside of the Arizona, sunk that
93 I'm a mustang.
94 That means ah (chokes up) I come up outta the ranks.
95 And I wore the Chief Petty Officer's hat in the process for seven years.
96 I belong to the national Chief Petty Officer's Association.
97 The chapters of the association are not called chapters, they're called Chiefs
98 And a Chiefs Quarters in Texas is named Peter Thomas.
99 And the reason I bring him up is because he was the chief water attendant on
100 He got the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously.
Emotional Remembering 519
101 He had gone down the third time from the shore to make sure all his men were
out from down below and never made it back up (pause), [tape 97-3A, 2/13/97]
This passage illustrates one of the discourse strategies that personalize the
histories presented by survivors at the Memorial. In this case the speaker
links his own identity as a navy man and former Chief Petty Officer with
that of one of the central figures in the Pearl Harbor drama. Indeed, any
time a survivor talks about Pearl Harbor history at the Memorial, his iden-
tity as a veteran implies a similar sort of substitutability between repre-
senter and represented, with the speaker embodying the kind of national,
military subjectivity constructed in the Pearl Harbor stories.
In the example above, when Dick I lusted refers to his own career and
former rank as a Chief Petty Officer, the topic transition is marked by a
brief expression of emotion (line 94). As someone who spent his entire
career in the Navy, Husted formed strong attachments to sailors, com-
manders, and ships. In general, these attachments are not verbalized or
made explicit in his Museum talks. However, when he does touch on sub-
jects that relate to his own life, as in the above passage, he sometimes
marks the intersection of narrative frames by inserting a brief aside about
These asides, like the use of first-person pronouns to talk about
Pearl Harbor history, bring life story and national story into mutual rele-
vance, such that each may affect the other, allowing national histories to
acquire a degree of emotionality and personal experiences to become to-
kens of national subjectivity.
In the interviews I have done with Richard Husted, asking him to
expand on his life history, some of the sources of his sentimentality be-
come apparent. He talks about the ships he served on as homes and
sources of nurturance that bred a sense of collective identity among their
particularly his "first ship," the USS Oklahoma. He also expresses
affection for officers who helped him at various junctures in his career.
When he talks about Pearl Harbor history, and especially the destruction
of ships and death of certain individuals, he draws upon his own under-
standings of ships, sailors, and officers formed in the context of his life
Although Husted presents his museum talk in the register of a public
historian, his primary identity here is that of a Pearl Harbor survivor. As a
result, his audiences are inevitably curious about his place in the action,
and ask to hear more about his own story. Because he presents his talk in a
referential mode, however, including details of the sinking of his own ship,
his audience frequently has to ask about his personal experience. In two of
the four presentations we recorded, audience members asked I lusted
about his experience at similar junctures in the narrative. In the examples
below he had just described the death toll on the USS Arizona and was dis-
cussing his ship, the Oklahoma, when someone asked if he was on the ship.
160 RH: . . . that's the reason we had that huge loss of life
161 95 percent of the people were aboard the battleships
162 98 percent aboard the cruisers
163 Visitor: (inaudible)
164 R1I: The gentleman asked if
was on the Okie
165 No, I wasn't.
166 ... I was in the liberty section and I had, the thing that set me aside from those
other poor souls, I had relations out there, (tape 94-6, 2/10/94).
In the second example, Husted was discussing the extraction of bodies
from the Arizona and his ship when one of his audience interrupted with a
similar question, seeking to locate the speaker in the scene of action:
91 RH: The people here on the Arizona (pointing to the photograph), those people
up forward were vaporized when that explosion took place
92 Back here forward of the main mast, those people were burnt and blown apart lit-
93 The people they did get out, as I said, 110, 130 bodies were so badly burned,
they couldn't identify them, most of them.
94 They are buried in Punchbowl as unknowns.
95 They got bodies out of my ship
96 Visitor: Where were you?
97 RH: Very fortunately I was ashore.
98 I was up here at Haleiwa.
99 I wasn't married, but if you were in the liberty section and you had bona fide re-
lations ashore [you could get shore leave], (tape 94-4, 2/8/94)
In both of these cases, once the question, "Where were you?" is asked,
Husted shifts into a narrative of his own actions the morning of the bomb-
ing. Ironically, though, the central theme of his personal story—and the
point that has unsettled him ever since—is his absence from the main
events of the attack, and especially from his ship at the fatal moment of its
sinking. Because he had taken overnight shore leave with relatives on the
other side of the island, he was not on the Oklahoma when it came under
attack. When he arrived back at Pearl Harbor as the attack was ongoing, he
found that his ship had already capsized with heavy loss of
These were traumatic events that continue to trouble Dick Husted.
For many years he had difficulty talking about his experiences during the
attack, and now that he does, his recollections are marked by signs of
trauma: partial amnesia and strong emotions. Despite repeating the story
of the bombing several times a week for the past few years, he has no
memory at all of the drive back to the harbor to rejoin his ship while the
attack was underway (which would have taken about 30 minutes). No mat-
ter how many times he has talked about these events at the Memorial, to
media reprentatives, or in conversation, he still finds that he is easily over-
come with emotion when talking about the loss of his ship, as well as about
other losses that day. As a result, he usually makes only brief reference to
Emotional Remembering 521
his personal experience in his museum talks, until someone interrupts
him.Because he was not on his ship when it came under attack, Ousted
feels that his own story is not the kind of history his museum audiences are
most interested in when they come to the Memorial For this reason, and
no doubt because of his own ambivalence, he has chosen to frame his pres-
entation as a historical overview based on textual sources rather than as
personal testimony. When
asked him in an interview if his audiences want
to hear about his experience, he replied that they do, but because he was
not in the middle of the action, some of his listeners lose interest when he
relates his own story:
135 GW: You must find that when you're giving your talks that people want to hear
about your experience.
136 RH: Oh, they do.
137 That's interesting experience. . . .
138 (they ask,) "What happened to you?"
139 So then I have to backwater and tell 'em [why I wasn't aboard] ....
140 So I was out there [on the opposite shore of the island] and when you tell peo-
ple this, some of 'em you lose, and some you don't.
141 GW: Some you lose because?
142 RH: Well, I'm no hero.
143 GW: Oh, they're looking for more smoke and fire
144 RH: Blood and guts
145 GW: (overlapping:) Yeah.
146 RH: and so forth.
147 But I've got their attention, so I go on with the talk.
148 I tell 'em what happened, (tape 97-2A, 2/13/97)
In this exchange, Husted notes that he often has to "backwater" (interrupt
himself) to tell his own story, just as in the two examples above. He de-
scribes the expectations of his audience with quoted speech, "What hap-
pened to you?"
138). He sees his audiences' interest focused on scenes
of battle and death (although in the talks we have observed, we did not see
evidence of this).
In contrast, when I first interviewed Husted, he not only talked about
his experiences on December 7th, he assumed they would be my primary
interest. Within minutes of our first session, he was describing those expe-
riences. In another interview, he repeated almost the same description of
events leading up to and following the discovery that his ship had been
sunk in the harbor:
413 We hit the main gate when the attack started on Wheeler Field.
414 And quite obviously, it was obvious we were at war.
415 And I left him [his uncle Ted] at the main gate.
416 And like I tell 'em I don't know how I got down to Pearl Harbor.
417 Followed that old road. . . .
419 The attack was still on.
420 They were out firin' and
made it down to the sub base and
was informed that my ship had already
422 Ail you could see out on battlewagon row was fire and smoke.
423 And I became emotional I guess.
424 She was my first ship, [tape 97-2A, 2/13/97, p. 13)
In the interview situation, Dick Ousted talked about "becoming emo-
tional" (423) when he saw that the huge battleship rolled over on its side.
Elsewhere he has described the moment as a "traumatic experience" and
reflected on the interplay of narrative and emotion when he gives his mu-
seum talks. He commonly uses psychological terms such as guilt or
trauma to describe his psychological states, both past and present. When
talking to museum audiences, he may tell them about the blank in his
memory about driving back to his ship, and may even say that a "shrink"
might be able to help him find the reasons for this. But otherwise he adds
very little about his emotions that day and avoids talking at length about
the loss of his ship and its crew because he sees them as "emotional trig-
that bring on tearful feelings. Instead, he frames his talk as one based
on historical texts. In the interview passage below, he had been telling me
what he normally tells his audience about getting down to the harbor and
seeing his ship, his voice cracked and he paused reflectively before going
on to say in a resigned tone, "Then
I go
on with whatever
read in the books.
Try to get my figures right."
510 RH: Lord has a way of taking care of me.
511 [It was a] very traumatic experience. . . .
512 I know it happened.
513 [She was] on her side when I arrived (pause)
514 Then I go on with whatever. I read in the books.
515 Try to get my figures right, [tape 97-2A, 2/13/97]
When Ousted returned to Pearl Oarbor for the 30th anniversary of the
bombing in 1971, at about the same time he retired from active military
service, he discovered the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association and began to
talk with other veterans about the events of December 7. In later years he
moved to Honolulu on a part-time basis and other survivors encouraged
him to volunteer at the Memorial. There he found a context in which he
could begin to talk at greater length about subjects that continue to trouble
him. He recognizes that the opportunity to narrate his experience—to re-
frame and expand memories of the attack as a narrative of collective, na-
tional history—has had a kind of therapeutic effect. He uses the word
catharsis to describe the beneficial effects of narrating history at the Me-
lusted recognizes that he remains emotional about Pearl I Iarbor
and describes his interaction with audiences in terms of the contagious
quality of emotion expressed between him and his audiences:
Emotional Remembering 523
suppose I dramatize a little.
517 Not tryin' to get emotional.
518 If I break up, the women in the crowd break up.
519 I don't intend to do that.
520 I mean I hate to do it in the presence of kids.
521 They don't know what a 76-year-old man is doin' up there cryin'.
522 You know, really.
523 It embarrasses 'em.
524 And you think that after six years of this I'd overcome it.
525 And
526 Ah, I try to stay away from but when you're asked a question you're asked a
question and you get into subjects that you try to stay away from, [tape 97-2A,
These comments reveal a good bit about Dick Husted's own conceptions of
emotion and narrative performance. He describes emotions as mediating
his interaction with his audience, such that his expression of emotion is ca-
pable of evoking audience responses, especially from women. Based on
similar comments from other survivor volunteers, crying in the Memorial
context is regarded as gendered, with women members of their audiences
seen as most likely to express emotions. Other volunteers have com-
mented to me that seeing women in their audiences crying
enough to set
off their own tearful reaction. In the passage above, Husted talks about his
weeping as embarrassing children, who presumably do not share knowl-
edge of the historical context that gives these emotions meaning, in rela-
tion to scenarios of tragic death and
Husted's statement above about the need to "overcome" his emotion-
ality when talking in the museum, and his strategies for doing so ("staying
away" from certain topics), indicate that he sees his historical talks as best
done without expressions of emotion. Although he recognizes that his own
memories of Pearl Harbor remain both emotional and troubling, he con-
ventionalizes that experience in the course of giving museum talks. After
saying that some questions get him into "subjects that you try to stay away
from" (526), I commented, "As you said before, there are some triggers,
and you just don't go into those." To which he replied, "But what I tell
them is what I've read out of
I went aboard the Dewey the next day."
Dick Husted's museum talks, presented by one who lived through the
attack, work both to narrate and conventionalize his emotional memories.
He describes the effects of this kind of talk as "cathartic," as having freed
him up. These effects are commonly described in the therapeutic literature
on trauma and memory (Antze and Lambek 1996), especially regarding
post-traumatic stress disorders among Vietnam veterans where the impor-
tance of sociocultural contexts where war experiences could be talked
about with comprehending and sympathetic interlocutors has been widely
discussed. The Vietnam veteran and author Tim O'Brien characterizes the
effects of his writing in much the same way that Husted talks about his
In ordinary conversation, I never spoke much about the war, certainly not in detail,
and yet ever since my return I had been talking about it virtually nonstop through my
writing. Telling stories seemed a natural, inevitable process, like clearing the throat.
Partly catharsis, partly communication, it was a way of grabbing people by the shirt
and explaining exactly what happened to me. ... By telling stories, you objectify your
own experience. You separate it from
You pin down certain truths. You make
up others. [O'Brien 1990:179]
The emotionality that surrounds Dick Husted's museum talks and, in
many ways, the activities of most of the survivors at the Memorial, reso-
nate with the official Park Service theater program cited earlier, in which
visitors to the Memorial are told they are likely to react emotionally to
Pearl Harbor history and memory. It is this marked emotionality that sig-
nifies the importance of the Memorial as a site that is not just a historic
landmark or tourist destination, but a place that attempts to speak to in-
dividuals in terms of their self-understanding. The pragmatic role of emo-
tion—including both emotion talk and emotional expression—indexically
links speaker, audience, and narrated events. Examining the performative
context of one survivor and his public presentations of Pearl Harbor his-
tory has been aimed at outlining some of the complexity of these relations,
such that speaker, story, and context are all potentially transformed in the
course of performative enactments of historical narrative.
The duality of history and memory (or, more precisely, of discourses
of history and memory) permeates the Pearl Harbor memorial. The public
expression of emotion in this context simultaneously marks its histories
as significant for personal experience and, by virtue of institutional con-
text, collective (national) history. The modalities of historical repre-
sentation that the Park Service uses to tell the Pearl Harbor story
complicate the often opposed registers of professionalized (collective) his-
tory and personalized (individual) memory. So, for example, museum ex-
hibits include personal effects, letters home, photos, and so forth
(Turnbull 1996) and, as mentioned earlier, the documentary film frames
its documentary account as an act of memorializing, of remembrance.9
Amidst the array of representational media at the Memorial and visitor
center, the voice of survivors is nearly unique as an embodied link be-
tween personal memory and national history (even if each survivor brings
a distinct story and mode of presentation).
Although the folksy style of many of the veterans may at times seem
to marginalize them in relation to the glossy productions of exhibits or the
lavishly produced documentary'film, their stories do resonate with many
Emotional Remembering 525
visitors, who often may be seen posing for photographs with a survivor,
capturing iconically their own presence in the Memorial's living history.
Their stories have also resonated with national media, which periodically
focus on Pearl Harbor history (especially in terms of entanglements be-
tween American and Japanese war memory [White 1997c]). When they
the handful of survivors who volunteer at the Memorial are often inter-
viewed for purposes of (inter)national representation. The 50th anniver-
sary brought a great amount of attention to the survivors and their stories.
This included production of several films, including a commercial 60-
minute video, titled "We Were There . . . Pearl Harbor Survivors: Eyewit-
ness to History," produced with both English and Japanese narration.
Survivor voices, it would seem, constitute one of the most significant
"arrests" in the dialectics of national selfhood, here coded in both print
and electronic media for diverse national publics. Whereas the diversity of
visitors to the Memorial ensures a wide range of interpretations and emo-
the performative construction of sadness and loss frames Pearl
Harbor stories as a certain kind of narrative: one that fits specific cultural
models of emotion. The Arizona Memorial and the confessional histories
of survivors institutionalize these frames as a means for reproducing na-
tional narrative that is both collective and personal, authoritative and
Given the small, aging cohort of Pearl Harbor survivors, their pres-
ence at the Memorial today marks a transitional moment from lived his-
tory to referential history. It will not be many years before veteran
survivors are no longer present at the Memorial in person. But the survivor
voice will not be so much silenced as transformed into other textual or
electronic media, ultimately to be heard only through magnetic and digital
As an indication of the importance of these voices in the operation
of the Memorial, the National Park Service recently undertook to produce
a video in which several veterans who volunteer at the Memorial tell their
stories on camera. The film, a 30-minute video completed in 1996, pre-
sents a series of vignettes in which six Pearl Harbor survivors and one
other veteran volunteer (a Japanese-American) tell their stories in
uninterrupted narratives. (The inclusion of a Japanese American veteran,
talking about internment, represents a distinctive voice that cannot be
discussed here due to limits of space.)
After a standard opening that summarizes the timing and strategic
details of the attack—using stock footage from earlier documentaries—the
narrator describes the purpose of this video by emphasizing that it pre-
sents veterans speaking about their own experiences, as contrasted with
textbook histories. He makes explicit the history/memory opposition that
is implicit in many aspects of the Memorial's history. \n this case, the "real
life stories" of the veterans are described as constitutive of a distinctive
kind of history based on emotional understanding.
In the next few minutes, we'll meet six survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor. We'll
also meet a Japanese American interned by the U.S. government at Heart Mountain,
Wyoming. As these brave and thoughtful men speak, we'll learn about their experiences
then and their feelings today. We'll also honor anew the memories of their comrades
and friends who gave their lives in service to our country. By listening carefully to these
real life stories we can discover new meanings to the words duty, honor, and country.
And if we pay heed with our hearts as well as our minds, we'll learn valuable lessons
about courage, fear, war, peace, anger, and forgiveness. [National 1996, emphasis
Here references to the psychological and emotional states of the
speakers frame the narrator's statement of what the video is all about. The
statement works at a metapragmatic level to characterize the veterans'
speaking as a specific kind of activity, one that does emotion work at the
same time as historical work. Their speaking is of interest not only because
they describe significant experiences, but because of "their feelings," ex-
pressed in the course of narrating "real life stories." When packaged as
textualized video performance, the pragmatics of veterans' storytelling be-
come an object of narrative commentary. By describing the purpose and
modalities of veterans' stories, the narrator establishes a context for
viewer participation and the involvement of viewer and viewed, just as the
physical presence of veterans talking and interacting with visitors does at
the Memorial. The idiom of emotion offers a culturally constituted means
for conceptualizing this kind of involvement, for bridging the temporal
separation of past events and present-day selves. The temporal dimension
at work in the video is presupposed when the viewer is invited to learn
about experiences "then" that obtain meaning in relation to feelings "to-
day." The common identification of narrator and viewer is further indexed
by the narrator's use of the pronoun we at various points, as in a passage
where both narrator and viewer are constituted as spectator