In the valley of the shadow of death : Accounting and identity in Thai-Burma Railway prison camps 1942-45

Miley, F. M., & Read, A. F. (2016). In the valley of the shadow of death : Accounting and identity in Thai-Burma Railway prison camps 1942-45. Paper presented at the 14th World Congress of Accounting Historians, Pescara.

Abstract: This research uses an historical qualitative approach that focuses on archival information supported by oral testimonies to examine accounting records by soldiers serving in the Australian Army during the Second World War. The unique feature of these records is that they were kept by men who were prisoners of war forced to work as slave labourers in Japanese labour camps to build the Thai-Burma railway. They were not permitted to have supplies that would enable them to keep accounting records, nor were they permitted to make any formal accounting records so these records were made and hidden at great personal risk. The punishment making and keeping these records was torture and/or death. The records are artefacts that were important for supporting a group identity for the prisoners as soldiers, counterbalancing the Japanese construction of the prisoner of war as shameful and worthless. Social identity theory developed from prisoner of war experiences and indicates the importance of artefacts that support positive group identity. We suggest that this example may reveal that accounting records are fundamental to society because they evidence and record social group membership.

Full paper available through Andrew Read’s ResearchGate page
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