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Heonik Kwon

The Hill Fight of the Korean War constitutes an important chapter of the formative military conflict of the mid-twentieth century where the South Korean and other UN forces confronted the Chinese and North Korean forces. Currently, it has become a vital site of contested memory, especially in relation to the growing contest of power between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. Describing South Korea’s recent initiative of missing in action (MIA)/killed in action (KIA) accounting activities on these old battlegrounds since 2000, this article looks at how public actions concerning the remains of war are intertwined with changing geopolitical conditions. This will be followed by a reflection on the limits of the prevailing art and technology of war-remains accounting.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Sarah Wagner

A half-century since its conclusion, the Vietnam War’s ‘work of remembrance’ in the United States continues to generate, even innovate, forms of homecoming and claims of belonging among the state, its military and veterans, surviving families and the wider public. Such commemoration often centres on objects that materialise, physically or symbolically, absence and longed-for recovery or reunion – from wartime artefacts-turned-mementos to the identified remains of missing war dead. In exploring the war’s proliferating memory work, this article examines the small-scale but persistent practice of leaving or scattering cremains at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC, against the backdrop of the US military’s efforts to account for service members missing in action (MIA). Seen together, the illicit and sanctioned efforts to return remains (or artefacts closely associated with them) to places of social recognition and fellowship shed light on the powerful role the dead have in mediating war’s meaning and the debts it incurs.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Spiritual care and memory activism at the former Republic of Vietnam military cemetery
Đạt Nguyễn

Following the end of the Vietnam–American War in 1975, the commemoration of the fallen soldiers of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) remains a difficult issue. The post-war Vietnamese state has marginalised ARVN dead from its national commemorative practices, while it has destroyed or neglected former South Vietnam memorial sites. This article provides an examination of recent efforts by local ARVN former combatants, living relatives of fallen soldiers and young Vietnamese to attend to the upkeep of the former ARVN cemetery in southern Vietnam. Based on participant observation and interviews, I explore how people care for the dead through regular acts of grave maintenance and religious rituals. I show that, through these persistent practices of care, southern Vietnamese engage in a form of memory activism to ensure the continual existence of the cemetery and lay claims to the right to mourn for the marginalised dead.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
The enigmas of empty graves, encrypted archives and porous bones
Tâm T. T. Ngô

This article details the remarkable involvement of the Vietnamese population in finding and naming half a million Vietnamese missing-in-action (MIAs). The secrecy that characterised Vietnam’s military operations during wartime, and the overlapping claims and therefore control of the MIAs by the army and civil administrations in the aftermath of the wars, are the reasons behind unsolvable quagmires in Vietnam’s current war-accounting effort. The myriad of state actors involved who often work at cross purposes raises the public’s awareness of the incompetence of the state and calls for the participation of non-state actors. The latest potential avenue to solve the MIA problem, DNA forensics, is facing all kinds of challenges, such as the quality of the bone samples and the scale of the effort. War accounting has therefore become an open arena of public engagement and popular dissent, while significantly transforming the cult of the dead in Vietnam.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Jarosław Kuisz

This chapter examines Poland’s relationship with the Catholic Church. The Church has a huge influence on Polish society, and its support for Law and Justice on various issues – notably the banning of abortion – is crucial to the government’s ability to maintain power. This influence is rooted in Poland’s long history of domination by foreign powers, during which the Church came to play the role of a “backup state.” Even under communism, it was able to retain a remarkable degree of institutional independence. The chapter recounts the history of Catholicism in Poland before turning to the situation today. It offers a comparison with Ireland, a country with a strong Catholic tradition which has nonetheless undergone a rapid process of secularisation in recent years. There are reasons to think this may happen in Poland as well, but the future remains uncertain, and for many the Catholic Church continues to represent a stronger guarantee of continuity than the state.

in The new politics of Poland
Jarosław Kuisz

This chapter examines the victory of Jarosław Kaczyński’s right-wing Law and Justice party in the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2015. It details the party’s past and focuses on Kaczyński himself. To understand Poland’s illiberal turn it is essential to understand this man, a brilliant political operator who prefers to work behind the scenes, installing trusted lieutenants in conventional positions of power such as prime minister and president. The chapter explains his background and his relationship with his identical twin brother, Lech Kaczyński, a former president of Poland who died in a plane crash in 2010.

in The new politics of Poland
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Post-traumatic sovereignty and war
Jarosław Kuisz

This concluding chapter returns to the presented day, asking what lies ahead for Poland and Eastern and Central Europe more generally. Poland’s parliamentary elections of 2023 are seen as crucially important both by the Law and Justice government and the opposition; the outcome will determine whether the country continues on its illiberal trajectory or returns to something approaching the liberal democracy of the 1990s and 2000s. A series of crises, including COVID, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and rising gas prices have shaken Poles’ already tentative sense of security, ushering in a new age of uncertainty. The war in Ukraine in particular has revealed a clear difference of perspective between Eastern and Central European countries and their Western neighbours. Poland and the Baltic States have good reason to question NATO’s commitment. But an important point moving forwards is that the sensitivities of Eastern and Central European societies have become part of European politics – looking to the future, they simply cannot be ignored.

in The new politics of Poland
Jarosław Kuisz

This chapter explores the thirty-year debate over Poland’s economic transformation. Like other former-Soviet states, Poland underwent a dramatic programme of economic transformation after 1989. This “shock therapy” was spear-headed by the economist Leszek Balcerowicz, and it caused significant economic hardship at the time, a fact that many Poles still remember. Arguments about whether shock therapy was right or whether a “gradualist” approach would have been less harmful have raged for years. But a distinct turn occurred around the middle of the 2010s, with more and more people expressing dissatisfaction with the market economy, despite a generally good economic outlook. When Law and Justice were elected in 2015, they took advantage of the sense of disgruntlement to launch their new socio-economic agenda.

in The new politics of Poland
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Jarosław Kuisz
in The new politics of Poland
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What happened to Poland?
Jarosław Kuisz

This introductory chapter begins by reflecting on the situation in Poland in 2014, a year before the electoral success of Jarosław Kaczyński’s right-wing Law and Justice party. At that time the country appeared to be on a steady path towards increasing liberalism and prosperity, as foreign commentators were only too happy to note. But a dramatic change was just around the corner. The chapter goes on to explain the book’s approach, which involves three levels of geographical analysis: global, regional, and national, and three time frames: the three electoral terms in which Law and Justice aims to fulfil its objectives, the thirty years of liberal development following the fall of the Soviet Union, and the three hundred years of foreign control following the country’s partitioning by Russia, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary in 1795.

in The new politics of Poland