AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 434

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Session 434: Returning to the Imaginary Homelands: Repatriation in the Era of Nation-States in Asia, 1940s-1970s

Organizer: Hiroko Matsuda, Kokugakuin University, Japan

Discussant: Peter Post, Independent Scholar, Netherlands

From the conclusion of the Second World War throughout much of the ‘hot’ period of the Cold War in Asia, the world witnessed great empires crumbling, colonies rebelling, and the emergence of an unprecedented number of nation-states. Throughout East and Southeast Asia, new national boundaries were being drawn mostly according to the outcome of political negotiations that followed the conclusion of the war. Victorious Allies were designating limits for the defeated Axis and governments of newly emerging nation-states were determining who belonged within their newly defined territories and which minority to exclude from the newly established citizenry. Consequently, a considerably number of people came under tremendous pressure to ‘return’ to their proper ‘homeland.’ Subjects of the former Empire of Japan residing in various parts of East and Southeast Asia were sent back to a massively downsized Japanese nation. Overseas Chinese who had been residing in former European colonies in Southeast Asia for generations found themselves ostracized by the nationalist regimes of the new nation-states. Even in territories that were never fully colonized, transnational ethnic minorities suffered tremendous pressure from the rising nationalist sentiments. The era of the nation-state in Asia was also an era of mass repatriation where millions were forced to return to homelands that were no less imaginary than the newly constructed boundaries of the recently self-conscious nation-states. This panel will investigate the socio-political and cultural implications of repatriation in the era of nation-states in Asia between 1940s and 1970s.

Roundtrip Repatriation: Overseas Chinese in and out of Indonesia and China in Cold War Asia
Nobuhiro Aizawa, Institute of Developing Economies, Japan

Why the Overseas Chinese in Indonesia, unlike in Thailand, had to struggles against the incorrigible perception of ethnic Chinese as an alien? Especially, up to the 1990s. In this paper I will highlight the changes and series of repatriation between Indonesia and China in the 1950s to 1980s, in the Asian Cold war context as the crucial context to understand the above question. The fact that Indonesian Chinese repatriated to China because of the political standoffs in the 1950s and 1960s are well known. However, the story of many of those also returned back (illegally if necessary) to Indonesia is not well known. This re-repatriation created a substantial impact on the status and understanding of overseas Chinese in Indonesia. The Cultural Revolution in PRC started in 1966 disillusioned the Chinese Indonesian who “returned home”. In China, they were seen connected with “foreign capitalists” and being anti-revolutionary. After they tried to “re-return home” to Indonesia, this time, they ended up treated again as an alien. They were labeled “Imigran Gelap(Hidden Migrant)” in 1970s Indonesia and severely watched by the state intelligence agencies. Not only the repatriation to China, but also the re-repatriation as “imigran Gelap” helped reproducing and cementing the idea of Chinese as foreigners sneaking in and out of Indonesia society. Question on the “Imigran Gelap” of whether to include/exclude them in Indonesia gained attention in the political landscape of the period in Indonesia. This issue offered the government a strong institutional justification to define Chinese as people as an alien, as someone the government needs to keep an eye upon.

Children of Japanese Colonialists in Taiwan: Experiences and Identity of Nisei and Sansei before and after the Repatriation
Hiroko Matsuda, Kokugakuin University, Japan

Contemporary scholars have investigated how Japanese civilian migrants played a role in the Japanese dominance of Manchuria and colonial Korea; however, less is known about how they migrated and lived in Taiwan, which was ruled by Japan from 1895 and 1945. Moreover, although scholars are well aware that the first (issei), second (nisei), and third (sansei) generations of Japanese have had different experiences in the US mainland and Hawaii, there has been a paucity of studies that pay attention to the generational differences among Japanese living in colonial Taiwan. In 1930, approximately 33 percent of the 228,281 Japanese in colonial Taiwan had been born in colonial Taiwan. First, this paper sheds light on their existence and identity as the children of Japanese colonialists. Many of the nisei and sansei raised in Taiwan had never lived in Japan, but they repatriated to the Japanese Main Islands or Okinawa after the WWII. The paper explores how they rebuilt their lives in their ‘motherland’ of Japan or Okinawa, and how they related to another ‘home,’ Taiwan, during the post-War period. The paper examines how the nisei and sansei’s particular relationships to Taiwan were not only built upon the colonial legacies, but also created in the contemporary political and social context of Taiwan. The paper also gives a special attention to the different experiences and identities of nisei and sansei from Okinawan backgrounds.

One Home, Two Empires, Three Nations : Japanese and Korean Repatriation from Karafuto and Persistence in Sakhalin
Taisho Nakayama, Kyoto University, Japan

Before WWII, the majority of people living in Karafuto (Southern Sakhalin) were not Russian or Karafuto Ainu, but Japanese, with a major minority of Koreans. After WWII, most Japanese people were forced to repatriate from their ‘home’ to their ‘homeland’ during the period of 1946 to 1949 and at the same time, almost the same number of Russians migrated to Sakhalin. Even though Russians were now the new majority, a few Japanese and many Koreans were forced to remain in Sakhalin. The USSR didn’t grant the remaining Japanese and Korean Soviet nationality, but publically granted them only their ethnicity. As the cold war structure grew, the situation changed, in the post cold war era, the situation changed again. Some of them were made possible to return to their ‘homeland’. During the gradual geo-political changes, one home, two empires and three nations have emerged to play a part in the lives of Japanese and Korean people living on Sakhalin: One home refers to Karafuto, two empires refers to the Japanese empire and the USSR, and three nations refers to the Japanese, Korean and Russian people. This paper indicates that nationality and ethnicity have not been innate factors but political ones for Koreans and Japanese who remained on Sakhalin. Political powers both granted and deprived them of their nationality and ethnicity, and on the other hand, the people themselves have chosen and expressed their own national and ethnic identity in order to live their own lives under political restriction.

Repatriation, Deportation, Political Asylum: Implications of Being Ethnic Chinese in Thailand during the Cold War Era
Wasana Wongsurawat, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand

The Chinese as an ethnic minority in Thailand has never been a clearly defined group in Thai society. From the dawn of the modern era in the 19th century, it has been the standard policy of the Thai (Siamese) state to minimize the differences between the ethnic Chinese and the native majority so as to have a claim on the largest possible population as its citizens. Consequently, studies concerning the ethnic Chinese in Thailand have been rather problematic. It is not only nearly impossible to definitely estimate the size of the ethnic Chinese population due to grossly conflicting data from the Thai government as opposed to estimations of all other sources, it is also very difficult to determine political implications of both the Thai state’s policies towards the ethnic Chinese and the Chinese individual or community’s responses in certain situations. This article will investigate the political implications of ethnic Chinese in Thailand ‘returning’ to China during Field Marshal Sarit’s premiership (1959-1963)—the era during which the most severe anti-Chinese/anti-communist policies were implemented by the Thai state. Attempting to better understand the relationship between the Thai state and the ethnic Chinese during this period, this paper will analyze by comparing and contrasting some major cases of ethnic Chinese repatriation, deportation, and requests for political asylum in the People’s Republic of China throughout the Sarit era.