Still Present Pasts: Korean Americans and the “Forgotten War”

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Rarely are personal life stories, art, film, spoken word, and history combined in public exhibition. Still Present Pasts: Korean Americans and the “Forgotten War” (SPP) is an exception. It weaves these elements into a multi-media, interactive experience that lifts the silence shrouding the Korean War, a pivotal event in Korean, United States, and Korean American history. A public space of memory, the exhibit explores the human experience of the Korean conflict and its hidden but enduring personal and family legacies, and underscores the urgency to end over a half century of national division. For everyone, it evokes reflection about the United States’ role in the war, empathy for survivors, and recognition of our common interest in acting for peace. SPP embodies memories I collected from 3 generations of Korean Americans as part of a unique oral history project. SPP's conception, design, and implementation are products of an interdisciplinary collective of artists, a filmmaker, a historian, and myself, a psychologist. It is comprised of installation art, interactive art, film, archival photographs, historical markers, and oral history excerpts. SPP is currently on tour most recently showing in Seoul, Korea (www.stillpresentpasts.org). This paper will summarize the aims of the exhibit, the process of creating it, and its reception as a unique experiment in restoring collective memory of the Korean War and reclaiming public voice. The presentation will be accompanied by a powerpoint sampling of exhibit elements.


Keywords: Oral History, Korean War, Korean Americans, Multimedia Exhibit, Collective Memory, Politics of Memory, Art, Humanities, Social Science
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , War and the Art of Remembering


Prof. Ramsay Liem

Professor, Department of Psychology, Boston College
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts 02467, USA

Ramsay Liem received his Ph.D. in Clinical and Community Psychology from the University of Rochester. He is a professor of psychology at Boston College and co-coordinator of the Asian American Studies concentration. His current interests include the intergenerational transmission of sociohistorical trauma, human rights and mental health, and Asian American Studies. He has longstanding interests in U.S./Korean relations and works with various groups to promote better understanding of North and South Korea. He is currently the project director for Still Present Pasts: Korean Americans and the “Forgotten War”, a multimedia exhibit embodying oral histories he has conducted with Korean Americans about their legacies from the Korean War. His most recent publication is: "Silencing historical trauma: The politics and psychology of memory and voice." Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 13(2), 153-174, 2007.

Ref: I08P0691