AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 345

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Session 345: "Constructing a Multi-Ethnic Utopian Culture in Manchukuo: Images of Manchuria in Painting, Photography, Commercial Advertisements, and Architecture, 1932-1945."

Organizer: Annika A. Culver, Florida State University, USA

Discussant: Ronald Suleski, Suffolk University, USA

This panel investigates how, especially in the 1930s, images of the multi-ethnic new state of Manchukuo produced in various media by Japanese, Chinese, and Russians helped convey a message of utopian modernity to a local regional, domestic Japanese, or foreign overseas public, who encountered these visual representations in diverse ways. They included massive canvases displayed in domestic Japanese government buildings, photographs showing Japanese development and Manchurian particularities to a multinational readership in Manshû gurafu [Manchuria Graph], commercial advertisements touting Japanese-invented health products to a largely Chinese audience in Manchukuo, and newly constructed buildings reflecting Manchukuo's ethnic diversity including Russian communities. Culver discusses Fukuzawa Ichirô's 1935 trip to Manchukuo with two other surrealist artists, and shows how they depicted the Manchurian space as a multi-ethnic utopia, but also as a site of numerous contradictions. Shepherdson-Scott investigates Fuchikami Hakuyô's photography and romanticized reflections of Manchuria in the propaganda magazine Manchuria Graph, which she argues, obfuscated the true nature of the state as an extension of Japan's empire. Smith examines Chinese-language advertisements of a Japanese gastrointestinal drug that reveal how widely circulated narratives of modernity and utopian health were directed to consumers and aided in the creation of a distinct Sino-Japanese culture in Manchukuo. Zatsepine investigates how Russian architecture, science, education and religion continued to thrive in the 1930s, but was adjusted to a new vision of Manchukuo where Russians ambivalently responded to, celebrated, or re-articulated the kinds of utopian messages emanating from the Japanese rulers.

"Surrealism at the Service of the State: Fukuzawa Ichirô and Associates, 1935-1936."
Annika A. Culver, Florida State University, USA

This paper investigates the South Manchuria Railway Company's (SMRC) 1935 sponsored tour through Manchukuo of Japan's foremost theorist of Surrealism, the artist Fukuzawa Ichirô (1898-1994), with two of his associates also active in the Japanese surrealist movement in art: Shimizu Toshi (1887-1945) and Suzuki Yasunori (1891-1974). In the mid-thirties, Surrealism was considered one of the most modern, cutting edge forms of representation in Japan's art world. Therefore, Fukuzawa's arrival from the metropole lent legitimacy to the birth of uniquely "Manchurian" culture under Japanese auspices, yet with a cosmopolitan, global reach. He and his two companions came to enjoy artistic inspiration in an exotic locale while lecturing or exhibiting in SMRC employee clubs and touring Manchukuo's modern cities and rural development areas (kaitaku-chi). Moreover, the Manchukuo tour, usually sponsored by the SMRC and the state propaganda organization, the Manchukuo Publicity Bureau, often gave Japanese intellectuals an opportunity to show the imperial government their renunciation of allegiance to Marxism while also serving to boost their careers by increasing their profile. In the mid-1930s, Fukuzawa and others attempted to distance themselves from their Marxist connections-contributing to ambivalent images that romanticized the Manchurian region and its people while still expressing mild critique of the Manchukuo experiment. I show how they depicted the region as a multi-ethnic utopian space, but also as a site of numerous contradictions. Intriguingly, the large canvases Fukuzawa and his associates produced often made their way into Japanese government buildings and military headquarters, despite the multivalent nature of their images.

"Romancing the Frontier: Fuchigami Hakuyô, Art Photography, and the Promotion of a Cultural Connoisseur"
Kari Shepherdson-Scott, Macalester College, USA

In 1928, renowned Japanese art photographer Fuchigami Hakuyô moved from Kobe to Dalian, a city in the Japanese Kwantung Territory in Northeastern China. Invited to work on the continent by the South Manchuria Railway Company (SMRC), he contributed greatly to the SMRC's Public Relations division as an editor, designer, and art photographer. He was well-versed in international photography and design trends, including pictorialism and constructivism. As such, he was a connoisseur who lent the SMRC great cultural capital. In 1932, the same year that the new state of Manchukuo emerged, Fuchigami founded a photography group called the Manchuria Photographic Artists Association (MPAA). Fuchigami and the MPAA drew international attention thanks to generous support from the SMRC: They exhibited in Manchuria, Japan, the United States and France and published their works in Manshû Gurafu, a graphic magazine published by the SMRC and edited by Fuchigami. This paper examines the romanticization of Manchukuo by Fuchigami and his colleagues of the MPAA. I explore this process both through the evocative works they produced - from nostalgic landscapes and rural portraits to dynamic, highly aesthetic urban compositions - and Fuchigami's idealized perception of the roles they played as artists on the continent as a kaitaku or "pioneer" who lived in the exotic frontier and drew upon the continental sublime for inspiration. Ultimately, I argue that their idealized work and artistic self-image worked to obfuscate the fraught politics in which they were entangled even while operating as cultural propaganda for the Japanese empire on the continent.

"Selling Utopian Health in Manchukuo: The Case of Ruosu"
Norman Smith, University of Guelph, Canada

Winter is a defining element of culture in Northeast China. In Manchukuo, constructs of healthy winter lifestyles appeared regularly in media such as the Chinese-language, Japanese-owned journal Qilin (Unicorn) and newspaper Shengjing shibao (Shengjing Daily). Readers were encouraged to enhance life in winter through dietary supplements and outdoor exercise, in pursuit of a scientific Wangdao (Kingly Way) modernity. In the 1930s, such modernity was reflected in an increasing volume of media, a nascent consumer culture, and an expanding Sino-Japanese health industry. Medical companies promoted their products in advertisements that featured images and text, with explicit reference to the local environment, the latest scientific advances, and the health of the nation. This paper examines Manchukuo-era Chinese-language advertisements of a Japanese gastrointestinal drug, Ruosu (Jp. Wakamoto). Ruosu was created in 1929 in Tokyo. In the 1930s, it became the leading consumer product in Manchukuo, explicitly promoted as a Wangdao medicine. Ruosu advertisements featured in Qilin and Shengjing shibao, often with images of strong, healthy, and happy children and adults, enjoying the winter, outdoors. Advertisements also appeared as essays, in which health professionals such as Jie Diguang (a professor of internal medicine at the Manchuria Medical Sciences University) testified that Ruosu's consumers could attain ideal health while curing a wide range of illnesses, including those associated with harsh Manchukuo winters. Ruosu advertisements clearly reveal widely circulated narratives of utopian health and the ways in which they were directed to consumers, shifting understandings of winter, and the creation of a Sino-Japanese culture in Manchukuo.

"An Uneasy Balancing Act: The Russian Émigré Community and Utopian Ideals of Manchukuo."
Victor Zatsepine, University of Connecticut, Hong Kong

This paper analyzes how Russians of different political persuasions and class affiliations celebrated or re-articulated utopian messages emanating from the Japanese rulers. Some Russians perceived the new political order as an opportunity and embraced the "kingly way" in exchange for protection and wellbeing. Russian architecture, science, education, culture, media and religion thus continued to thrive in the 1930s. As the largest group of Europeans in Manchukuo, the Russian community could reaffirm Manchukuo's utopian ideals of harmonious co-existence between Asian and European people under the umbrella of Imperial Japan. Harbin's leading Russian poets and writers, such as Arsenii Nesmelov, Valerii Pereleshin, Aleksei Achair and Boris Iul'skii, published their works in pro-fascist journals (such as Nash Put' (Our Way)', Natsiya (Nation), Luch Azii (The Ray of Asia) that were financed by the Japanese and celebrated Japan's civilizing role in Manchukuo. Providing even more visible evidence of the utopian messages, the Society of Russian Engineers in Harbin flourished during the 1930s by offering the services of its engineers and architects to creating the look of a Russo-Japanese environment in Manchukuo. In practice, the Manchukuo "state" explored tensions between pro-Soviet, anti-Bolshevik and neutral émigré groups to the advantage of Imperial Japan and its military. Contradictions between the utopian goals of Manchukuo and the increasing suppression of Russian influences demoralized and disillusioned the Russian émigré community. By the late 1930s, many of those who could chose to escape. This paper examines the gap between the Imperial ideals of Manchukuo and its Russian "subjects."