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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Reflections on “Memories of War”: Project-based Learning among Japanese-as-a-Foreign-Language (JFL) Students at a Malaysian University

  • Author(s): Shibahara, Rika
  • et al.

Published Web Location Commons 'BY-NC-ND' version 4.0 license

This study examines Malaysian learners’ reflections on the discourses of the Asia-Pacific War in Malaysia and Japan after engaging in “Memories of War” project. The project, which was implemented in an advanced Japanese-as-a-Foreign-Language (JFL) class at a Malaysian university, aimed to improve learners’ ability to grasp power relations underlying the social discourses on the Asia-Pacific War. It also sought to help them develop a more critical and comprehensive understanding of the war as responsible global citizens. The study finds that learners’ exposure to the wartime experiences of Japanese citizens largely prompted learners to view Japanese citizens as victims and war leaders as victimizers, though multiple victim-victimizer relationships were also identified among the citizens at the time. Learners also came to realize that race, social-economic status, and gender influenced Malaysian locals’ experience of the war. The discovery of the disturbing, “unfair” facts by students in the ethnically mixed class often brought about uncomfortable categorizations of self and others as victims, betrayers, or bystanders. Nevertheless, awareness often remained unspoken, and the mere appreciation of the status quo was expressed. The author consequently argues that the teacher has an important role to play in guiding learners to connect the past and the present.

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