lnu.sePublications
Change search
CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf
Harmless Entertainment or Propaganda?: Discourses of Empire in early 20th century Japanese Expositions
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Cultural Sciences. (Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4041-6150
2014 (English)In: Svenska historikermötet (Conference for Swedish Historians), Stockholm, 8-10 May 2014, 2014Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

With the upsurge of scholarly interest in Japanese colonialism in recent years, it is now recognized that imperialism was an integral part of pre-war Japan’s “modernization”/Westernization efforts.  As several recent studies have shown, Japan’s “mimetic imperialism” involved the emulation not only of Western colonial practices, but also of discourses that served to legitimize overseas expansion.[1]  Nevertheless, Japan’s interaction with Western colonial culture is still generally explained as a one-way flow from the West to Japan, whereas Japan was in fact “a coeval participant in the early twentieth-century reorganization of the world”[2] and contributed to the development of a transnational culture of imperialism. 

In this paper, I will explore these themes in relation to colonial exhibits at various early 20th century expositions, both within Japan and internationally. As many scholars have recognized, international expositions were a significant venue for spreading discourses of empire to a broad public.[3] They were also, however, crucial nodes at which different countries’ imperialisms interacted, and hence one of the key sites at which a transnational imperial culture developed. Beyond their oft-stated aim of educating the general public, imperial exhibitions at these international fairs were a location where colonial administrators, businessmen, or academics from the field of colonial studies could learn from each other’s methods, establish trade contacts and size each other up. By regularly exhibiting their various colonies in the same venue (large expositions were occurring almost annually by the early 20th century), the various imperial powers assured that their colonialisms remained within the same conceptual sphere. Like a group of closely related languages, the colonialisms of the different imperial powers retained certain particular characteristics, but their frequent interaction prevented them from becoming mutually unintelligible. Japan’s position as a latecomer and an outsider is particularly interesting from this perspective.

Japan’s Meiji leaders were quick to see the importance and usefulness of expositions in furthering national interest abroad and committed significant resources to participation in world’s fairs from early on. Interestingly, however, they also quickly began to adapt the genre to domestic ends, holding a number of industrial trade fairs of an increasingly grand scale in the last decades of the 19th century. After becoming a colonial power in its own right, Japan even began to hold numerous expositions in its own colonies in an attempt to awe its imperial subjects with Japan’s technological and military might.[4] Curiously, while Japan generally presented a traditional image of itself overseas, with exhibits displayed in wooden replicas of temples and castles, it chose to exhibit itself in Western guise within the Japanese empire through, among other things, monumental neoclassical architecture.[5] Analyzing Japanese colonial displays in particular, I will attempt to explain this paradoxical tendency and its implications for Japan’s role in the transnational culture of imperialism.

I will focus on two expositions that are particularly significant but which have received scant scholarly attention: the Japan-British Exhibition of 1910 in London, in which Japan was especially keen on spreading a favourable impression of its colonial rule in preparation for the annexation of Korea that same year, and the Colonization Exposition (Takushoku Hakurankai) that was held in Tokyo two years later. Comparing the exhibits at these two fairs will allow me to gauge to what extent Japanese mimesis of Western imperial discourses influenced domestic imperial propaganda, as opposed to rhetoric aimed at shaping international public opinion.  To what extent did international imperial discourses penetrate Japan’s domestic imperial propaganda? Did Japan pursue different discursive strategies for “selling” its empire to domestic and foreign audiences and what results did these strategies have? Through a comparative analysis of these two expositions, I hope to reach a deeper understanding of Japan’s place in the transnational culture of imperialism.

[1] Tierney, Robert. Tropics of Savagery: The Culture of Japanese Empire in Comparative Frame. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010, p. 15.  See also Atkins, E. Taylor. Primitive Selves: Koreana in the Japanese Colonial Gaze, 1910-1945. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.

[2] Hill, Christopher. “Tropics of Savagery: The Culture of Japanese Empire in Comparative Frame (review).” The Journal of Japanese Studies, 38:1 (Winter 2012), p. 162.

[3] See, for example, MacKenzie, John M. Propaganda and Empire: The Manipulation of British Public Opinion 1880-1960.  Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984.

[4] One of the leading Japanese-language studies of these expositions is Yamaji Katsuhiko (山路勝彦). 近代日本の植民地博覧会 (The Colonial Expositions of Modern Japan). Tokyo: Fukyōsha, 2008.

[5] For a discussion of the significance of exposition architecture, see Oh Se-Mi. Consuming the Modern: The Everyday in Colonial Seoul 1915-1937. Dissertation, Columbia University, 2008.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014.
Keywords [en]
expositions, popular imperialism, Japan-British Exhibition, Takushoku Hakurankai
National Category
History
Research subject
Humanities, History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-52007OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-52007DiVA, id: diva2:918049
Conference
Svenska historikermötet (Conference for Swedish Historians), Stockholm, 8-10 May 2014
Available from: 2016-04-08 Created: 2016-04-08 Last updated: 2018-11-16Bibliographically approved

Open Access in DiVA

No full text in DiVA

Other links

Conference Program

Authority records BETA

Hennessey, John

Search in DiVA

By author/editor
Hennessey, John
By organisation
Department of Cultural Sciences
History

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar

urn-nbn

Altmetric score

urn-nbn
Total: 141 hits
CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf