by Junyi Han, 20C History and Media Studies
2019-2020 Halle/Fox Center Global Research Fellow
When I first arrived in Myanmar, I thought I already knew exactly what to expect. With a detailed research agenda in hand, I planned to interview five to seven people who were the second generation of Chinese World War II veterans, and I thought I would be able to get abundant first-hand accounts for my thesis. However, my journey was full of surprises. Some of the people that I talked to only had a very vague understanding of the past war. Even though they were willing to help my research, they did not have much to say. Luckily, one of the interviewees was very supportive. He volunteered to drive me to two nearby cities and we visited war memorials and museums there. Through this unanticipated experience, I managed to find valuable memoirs written by war veterans and interview more people than I originally expected. He also gave me the contact information of two Chinese scholars who share similar research interests with me. I ended up visiting them in Yunnan, and they gave me much useful advice on my research. Even though I did not collect a huge amount of interviews, I was able to carry out my research project by shifting my focus from personal accounts to memorial sites.
Looking back at my research trip, I think it is a great adventure. While I did not quite end at the point where I originally expected I would be, I managed to slightly pivot my research and pursue a new direction. This trip allows me to acquire rich primary sources and to establish professional connections overseas. The most valuable lesson that I have learned from my summer experience is that researchers should always be flexible and open-minded. It is very important to cope with uncertainty and serendipity along the way.
Junyi Han is a senior double majoring History and Media Studies. She is currently working on an honors thesis that examines war memories through the case of the Chinese Expeditionary Forces, a military unit dispatched to Burma and India by the Nationalist government in 1942 in support of the Allied efforts against Japanese invasion in Asia. The thesis will answer how and why the war efforts of the Chinese Expeditionary Force started to be recognized in mainland China in the late twentieth century. It will explore how war memories and post-war politics have mutually shaped each other, and thus provide new insights into contemporary Chinese history.