AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 724

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Session 724: (Dis)embodying “Japan” : Discourses of Multiracial Empire in Manchukuo and Japanese Immigrants in Hawai'i, British Columbia, and the Priamur Region

Organizer: Seok Won Lee, Rhodes College, USA

Chair: Wayne Patterson, St. Norbert College, USA

Discussant: Wayne Patterson, St. Norbert College, USA

At the turn of the twentieth century, as nation-states pursued the project of constructing homogeneous modern national communities, they faced daunting challenges posed by drastic changes in ethnic and racial configuration. This situation was essentially different from nineteenth-century colonialism inasmuch as the border between metropole and colony became increasingly ambiguous, a characteristic of modern empires. The ubiquitousness of racial minorities threatened to destabilize and decenter the the majority group in the empire and in the nation-states, but it also paved the way for new cultural and social discourses of identity formation. Many of these imperial discourses created the blueprint for a utopian vision of the imperial nation-state where racial harmony would be realized and social, cultural, and political unevenness would be minimized. The main objective of our panel is to develop a comparative and transnational perspective on race and empire studies by examining the politics of identity formation both in the colonial empire and in multiracial nation-states. Focusing on Manchukuo, Japan’s new empire constructed in 1932, two panelists will explore how Japanese politicians and intellectuals aimed to integrate racial and colonial minorities into a utopian multiracial empire. Another two papers shed light on the intertwined logic of “Japan” and “Japaneseness.” These papers will discuss how Japanese immigrants were integrated into multiracial nation-states such as Canada, Russia, and the United States by dealing with the borderland regions of British Columbia, the Priamur, and Hawai'i.

Japanese Communities in the Formation of Regional Identity in British Columbia and the Priamur Region in the Late-19th/Early-20th Century: A Comparative Perspective
Igor Saveliev, Nagoya University, Japan

In the mid-19th century, the building of modern nation states, the rise of the international state system and the completion of border demarcation around the world obliged governments to pay special attention to the enforcement of newly acquired borderlands and to establish policies for their successful integration into the state. Two such regions, British Columbia and Priamur Region, joined Canada and Russia respectively at almost the same time, 1871 and 1858-1860. Basing on primary sources collected in Canadian and Russian archives and other sources, the present paper attempts to contribute to the discourse on borderland identity, exploring the role the East Asian and particularly Japanese migrants played in the construction of the regional identity of the two borderland regions – British Columbia and the Priamur Region. The study investigates the contradiction between the development of the region and the identity-based concept of immigration and naturalization policy. This paper also tries to answer, how East Asian and particularly Japanese migrants contributed to the crystallization of the regional borderland identity and to analyze the similarities and differences in the policies of the two countries.

Loyal Subjects In The Racial Melting Pot: The Sociological Discourse Concerning Japanese Immigrants In Hawaii
Noriaki Hoshino, New York University Shanghai, USA

This paper examines a number of studies done by American sociologists on Japanese immigrants in Hawaii. Since the 1920s, sociologists from Chicago university had researched the situation of Asian immigrants on the American West Coast and examined their assimilability to the U.S. society. In their research, Chicago sociologists adopted a specific frame of analysis, which presupposed the gradual integration of the immigrants into the host society. By doing so, they created a "solution" to deal with people situated in-between nation-states such as Japanese immigrants. This research was extended to Hawaii by some sociologists who assigned to Hawaii islands a special status in a drastically transforming society, as a “racial melting pot of the Pacific.” The sociological study done in Hawaii focused on the racial relations in the islands and later played an important role in the examination of loyalty of Japanese immigrants in Hawaii during WWII.

A 'White’ Race with Cultural Capital: Harbin, Music, and the Russian Diaspora in Watashi no Uguisu of Manchukuo/the Japanese Empire
InYoung Bong, , South Korea

This paper examines cinematic representations of the Russian diaspora and the placement of sound, music, and singing in relation to movement in the film My Nightingale, directed in 1943 by Shimazu Yasujiro. The film recounts the Japanese’s hospitality toward White Russian exiles from the Russian Imperial Theater who settle in Harbin and the story of Mariko/Maria, a Japanese girl who studies singing from her adoptive Russian father. The centrality of these two ethnic groups in the film narrative embodies their cultural and racial preeminence in Manchukuo, repudiating gozoku kyōwa. The film, however, also shows scenes with discord between the source of sound, speech acts, and subtitles, rendering visual images acoustic and auditory events. Paying close attention to multivalent modes of representations of White Russians, the paper addresses how the film displays particular spatial images of the cities in order to construct modern, Western characteristics of Harbin in terms of architecture, sound, and music. By exploring how the placement of sound, noise, and singing works in relation to image and movement and also in association with gender and cinematography, the study extrapolates the meaning of the management of image and film technology as well as the incongruity between image and sound sources. With the focus on sonic and vocal aspects in cinematography, the paper further clarifies cinematic and artistic qualities of the film, whose significance transcends any political message of the time. The representations of particular cinematic mobile moments suggest the creation of a new cinematic, hermeneutic space without definite and stable centers and boundaries, providing a rich cultural terrain of unmapped meanings of the Russian diaspora and the legacies of colonial cultures within Manchukuo and the Japanese Empire.

Creating a Manchurian Utopia: Shinmei Masamichi's Theory of a Multi-Racial Nation-State in Manchukuo
Seok Won Lee, Rhodes College, USA

This paper deals with the question of how Japanese social scientists envisioned a multi-racial nation-state in the mid 1930s. As Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 and made it clear that it would construct an East-Asian empire, the issue of multi-racial and ethnic nationalism emerged as a practical as well as theoretical challenge for Japanese bureaucrats and intellectuals. Under these circumstances, Manchukuo became an experimental site for Japan’s new imperial project of a multi-racial empire, and Japanese bureaucrats spread the notion of gozoku kyowa (五族協和, Harmony of Five Races). While gozoku kyowa served as political propaganda, social scientists focused on developing the logic to convince racial minorities in Manchukuo of the necessity of creating an anti-racist multi-racial state. As part of this project, Shinmei Masamichi, Professor of Sociology at Tohoku Imperial University, went to Manchukuo in the mid 1930s and gave several talks and lectures to Japanese workers and minority groups. By critically analyzing Shinmei’s writings and talks in Manchukuo, this paper poses two main questions. (1) How different was the logic of a multi-racial empire in Manchukuo from Japan’s previous colonial policies, bunka seiji (文化政治, cultural politics) in particular? (2) If the nation-state were presented as an entity of racial hybridity, how did Shinmei theorize the concept of community? The second question is very important in understanding the importance of racial and ethnic discourses in wartime Japan, in that national subjectivity became a central theoretical weapon to overcome the specters of capitalism. Seeking answers to these questions, I will also pay attention to how Shinmei and other leading social scientists concretized the notion of the East Asian Cooperative Community during the wartime period.