AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 75

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Session 75: The Japanese Colonization of Taiwan, 1895-1945: Interdisciplinary and Comparative Approaches

Organizer: Miriam L. Kingsberg, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

Chair: Hui-yu Caroline Tsai, Academia Sinica, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

Discussants: Hui-yu Caroline Tsai, Academia Sinica, Taiwan (R.O.C.); Janis A. Mimura, State University of New York, Stony Brook, Germany

“It’s not hard to govern a colony, but it is hard to colonize it,” bureaucrat Gotō Shinpei reflected on his service to the Japanese empire. From the takeover of Taiwan in 1895, through the dismantling of the imperial state in 1945, the Office of the Governor-General (Sōtokufu) sought not only to govern—that is, to administer the island for the advantage of the metropole, but also to colonize—to understand Taiwan and the Taiwanese as categories, and to remodel them in the image of Japan and the Japanese. From the perspective of three different disciplines (history, political science, and science and technology studies), our research explores the myriad ways in which the imperial regime mobilized an expanding array of actors to understand, engage and alter the race, lifestyle and identity of the colonial Other. Case studies include the Sōtokufu Monopoly Bureau quest to mold the local taste for and of opium, the symbolic deployment of narcotics to mutually constitute the Japanese and the Taiwanese within an expanding empire, the contributions of autonomous policymakers and local elites to the functionality and enforceability of land reform and education measures, and state violence against the bodies of vagrants in the name of scientific colonization. From the vantage point of the growing field of Taiwan colonial studies, but in conversation with comparative cases, particularly Manchuria and the Philippines, we highlight the practical and ideological challenges faced by the Japanese regime, and indeed all modern empires, in actually colonizing their colonies.

Building Colonial Governance in Early Twentieth Century Taiwan and the Philippines: Similar Contexts, Different Outcomes
Reo Matsuzaki, Trinity College, USA

My paper compares early twentieth-century institution-building in colonial Taiwan under imperial Japan, and the Philippines under American occupation. Despite similar background conditions in the two colonies, the Japanese established a strong and coherent bureaucratic state in Taiwan, whereas the legacy of the American occupation of the Philippines was a system of formal rules that had little impact on the actual behavior of most Filipinos. What explains the vast differences in the functionality and enforceability of institutions across these two cases? What were the different pathways taken in the construction of colonial governance, and their implications for institutional strength? These questions are explored through two paired comparisons in the areas of education and land reform. I argue that two factors played a central role in shaping the institution-building process: (i) the extent of discretionary authority granted to the colonial regime by its home government, and (ii) the ability of native elites to interfere with the institution-building effort. The more freedom colonial agents had to engage in on-the-ground experimentation, the more likely they were to successfully integrate new institutions into the local social order. Imperial policymakers, who espoused a vision of “biological colonization” that emphasized adapting metropolitan practices to the local ecology, themselves recognized this tendency. Moreover, the most effective institutions emerged when native elites possessed the capacity to veto the institution-building program of colonial agents. Only those institutions with local support were enforceable, for imperialists lacked both the manpower and the legitimacy to compel widespread compliance to new rules.

Scientific Colonialism and Violence: Forced Labor in Vagrant Camps in Colonial Taiwan
Nadin Hee, Freie Universitat, Germany

This paper focuses on the issue of forced labor in so-called “vagrant camps” in Taiwan under Japanese colonial rule (1895-1945), and its relationship to the practice of “scientific colonialism.” The colonial state, under the direction of the Sōtokufu, not only used certain criminalized groups as economic resources, but also made them into objects of “biological politics,” as vagabonds were criminalized and pathologized by leading scientists. As my examination of interactions between colonial Taiwan and the imperial metropole displays, Japanese influences on vagrant camps were not as significant or transformative as the direct transfer of scientific knowledge from Europe to Taiwan. With the adoption of the European idea of vagabondage as a “disease” or “poison” of the social body, the individual bodies of colonized vagrants became living allegories. Characteristics of sickness were written into their bodies and made into signifiers of new power structures. The scientific stereotype of vagrants as medical cases even prompted physical examination expeditions to vagrant camps, where physicians tested whether poison was to blame for the pathological behavior of inmates. This research is significant not only in its attention to an understudied aspect of state-society relations in colonial Taiwan, but because it sets forth the contention that the ideology of scientific colonialism, generally discussed in benign terms, was deeply entangled with violence in colonial Taiwan.

The Taste of Opium: Monopoly and Techno-Scientific Practice in Colonial Taiwan
Hung Bin Hsu, National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

This paper presents a historical account of the production of opium, the development of a state monopoly, and above all the management of local taste for and of the drug. It analyses how the Japanese colonial government of Taiwan successfully transformed the “opium problem” in Taiwan into a well-controlled industry and profitable, “scientific” public business. Adopting the material-oriented approach of science and technology studies, I present the practical details of the production of opium pastes within the very first laboratory and factory in Taiwan, the Opium Production Office. The Opium Production Office was a unique site upon which converged raw materials (varieties of opium and other ingredients), people (local workers, connoisseurs, and Japanese technicians), and different kinds of knowledge and bodily experiences (local methods, analytical charts, statistical data and personal taste). The study of the opium monopoly in colonial Taiwan demonstrates the impact of precise measurement and standardization on the industrialization and mass production of opium pastes, and draws attention to the network that sustained these techno-scientific practices. I argue that Japanese attempts to change both the taste of opium, and the Taiwanese taste for opium, deployed techno-scientific practices as a means of distinguishing between colonizer and colonized. The Japanese were scientists, who sought to improve the taste of opium and therefore the lives of their subjects. The Taiwanese were opium smokers, whose habit marked them as backward, and whose resistance to the taste imposed upon them was a flashpoint for conflict throughout the colonial period.

From Addiction to Assimilation: Opium and Race in Taiwan and the Japanese Empire
Miriam L. Kingsberg, University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

This paper addresses the ideological foundations of Japan’s colonization policy in Taiwan, examining how opium was deployed as an indicator of racial difference and vehicle of assimilation within the imperial polity. In an empire characterized by an unrivaled degree of ethnic confraternity, opium functioned as a more reliable signifier of race than race itself. Following the acquisition of Taiwan in 1895, state and sub-state intellectuals of imperial Japan distinguished between the Japanese, an allegedly abstinent and therefore superior nation, qualified to assume leadership of Asia; and the Taiwanese, represented as addicted to drugs, and thus incapable of self-sovereignty. Citing the threat of opium “contagion” from the local population to Japanese migrants, they successfully called for the criminalization of drug consumption. The absorption of Manchuria, beginning ten years later in 1905, forced Japan to adjust the imperial racial hierarchy to take the Chinese into account. Mainland Chinese, viewed since the late nineteenth century as backward and degenerate, supplanted the Taiwanese as the ultimate incarnation of inferiority, thrusting the latter into a new, intermediate position on the ethnic ladder. Japanese ideologues now presented the Taiwanese as “Japanese,” subject to contamination by Chinese migrants. The locus of production of anti-opium rhetoric shifted from the legal to the medical sphere, as addiction among Taiwanese became a disease of simple misfortune, rather than a manifestation of criminality. By the late imperial age, opium, which had once distinguished the Taiwanese from their colonial rulers, bound them together as “Japanese” against the greater threat of the Chinese.