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American Advisors, Ainu ‘Artefacts’ and Japanese Settler Colonialism in Hokkaidō, 1868-1885
Linnaeus University, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Department of Cultural Sciences. (Linnaeus University Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4041-6150
2017 (English)In: Everyday Empires: Trans-Imperial Circulations in a Multidisciplinary Perspective, 2017Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In 1878, Professor William Smith Clark presented clothing and other objects produced by the Ainu people of Hokkaidō to an eager Massachusetts audience. The local newspaper reported:

With the exception of two or three articles, he was able to represent all the Ainos have ever produced, and he said that it was truly a remarkable fact that individuals in our country would accumulate during the period allotted to man more wealth than all the Ainos have during the thousands of years they have lived on the island.[1]

The belief that the nineteenth-century Ainu were a “primitive people” frozen in time remains widespread. In fact, the Ainu had had well-developed agriculture and manufacturing before their gradual suppression from the seventeenth century under Japanese pressure.[2] As this paper will show, the interpretation of the Ainu’s mid-nineteenth century non-agricultural state according to Western anthropological theories ended up cementing the view of the Ainu as a “dying race” that had always lacked agriculture.

Inspired by American expansion into the “Wild West”, Japanese leaders hired American advisors in the 1870s to help them colonize Hokkaidō. Having a “frontier” with “primitive” peoples to “civilize” served them well as they strove to demonstrate Japan’s parity with the West. Especially interested in currying American favor, strategic comparisons were made between Ainu and Native Americans. Nevertheless, the subordination of Ainu, widely believed to be “Caucasian,” to Japanese complicated the standard colonial trope, provoking fascination and horror in the West.

This paper will investigate the transnational circulation of everyday Ainu objects and how they acquired new, colonially-coded significance outside their original context. How did these objects reinforce or challenge standard colonial narratives of development? It will argue that American advisors and the Ainu objects and stories they brought home with them played a key role in legitimizing Japanese imperialism.

[1] “President Clark’s Lecture on the Ainos of Japan,” Amherst Record, 20 November 1878.

[2] Tessa Morris-Suzuki. “Creating the Frontier: Border, Identity and History in Japan's Far North.” East Asian History 7 (1994): 1-24.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
Keyword [en]
Hokkaido, inter-imperial transfers, trans-imperial, Japanese colonialism, settler colonialism
National Category
History
Research subject
Humanities, History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-64605OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-64605DiVA: diva2:1104437
Conference
Everyday Empires: Trans-Imperial Circulations in a Multidisciplinary Perspective, May 25-26, 2017, University of Birmingham, UK
Available from: 2017-06-01 Created: 2017-06-01 Last updated: 2017-06-16Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
  • apa
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Language
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