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Rule by Association: Japan in the Global Trans-Imperial Culture, 1868-1912
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
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Criticizing one-empire approaches, calls to apply much-needed transnational perspectives and methodologies to colonial history have recently emerged. This groundbreaking scholarship has already revealed that the competition between different European empires after 1850 has typically been overemphasized; in fact, a transnational perspective reveals extensive cooperation between the “great powers” of the age, along with myriad examples of exchanges and transfers of colonial knowledge. In this dissertation, I argue that during the height of the New Imperialism during the latter half of the long nineteenth century, one can go even further and describe the co-production of a “global trans-imperial culture” by all of the colonial powers of the age, facilitated by a common “knowledge infrastructure,” including international congresses, trans-imperial scholarly exchange and expositions. I contend that Japan was an important member of this “colonial club” that was deeply engaged with evolving global colonial discourse and practice throughout this period. Emerging trans-imperial historiography has largely neglected Japan, while historians of Japan have tended to exaggerate its uniqueness in global imperial history and often missed important global trends in colonial policy that explain many characteristics of Japanese expansionism. Furthermore, an oversimplified description of Meiji expansionism as “mimetic imperialism” shared by some Japan scholars and global imperial historians ignores the degree to which all imperial powers imitated each other during this period and the great extent to which Japan was involved in multidirectional inter-imperial exchanges.

The dissertation has three interrelated aims. First, it applies cutting-edge theories of inter-imperial exchanges and cooperation to the Japanese Empire, arguing that Japan took part in a developing global trans-imperial culture throughout the Meiji period. Focusing on connections rather than comparison, it traces how and when different examples of Western colonial knowledge came to Japan and ways in which Japan influenced other empires, investigating trans-imperial conduits like foreign consultants, scholarly texts and international expositions. Secondly, it works to dismantle persistent notions of Japan as a marginal latecomer to this community of imperial powers by demonstrating that Japan engaged with inter-imperially circulating discourses and practices from as early as 1868 and contributed to the development of the culture as a whole. The dissertation joins a growing body of critical work that argues that Meiji-era Hokkaidō is best understood as a colony in which modern technologies of settler colonialism were systematically employed starting directly after the Meiji Restoration.

Finally, it employs theories of colonial association as a kind of overarching case-study to illustrate how ideas and practices of colonial governance circulated over imperial boundaries and concurrently influenced all empires of the time. During the second half of the nineteenth century, the strategy of assimilating colonized peoples became increasingly discredited among the colonial policy elite worldwide. New notions of how best to rule a colonial territory based on Social Darwinism and British and Dutch experiments in indirect rule, later collectively referred to as the “association” of colonizer and colonized with minimal cultural interchange, became correspondingly influential. Although assimilation and association are frequently treated as unchanging traits of specific empires (with France and Japan typically identified as assimilationist and Britain and the Netherlands as associationist), this dissertation contends that shifts between assimilation and association happened concurrently in different empires around the world, providing important evidence of a common trans-imperial culture. I will demonstrate that Japanese colonial elites engaged with these ideas at the same time as their counterparts in Western empires, with Japan’s famous radical assimilation campaign coming only in the final years of its empire. Revealing the strong influence of associationist thought among Meiji leaders helps to illuminate the consistency and “timeliness” of Japanese colonial discourse and practice and challenges anachronistic notions of the Japanese Empire always being characterized by a unique form of colonial assimilationism.

The empirical “body” of the dissertation is divided into three large, thematic sections. Part I investigates the trans-imperial linkages between Japan and the United States during Japan’s colonization of Hokkaidō around the 1870s. Chapters 1 - 3 consider the role of three American professors, William Smith Clark, William Wheeler and David Pearce Penhallow, who were hired to establish an agricultural college as part of the colonial development of Hokkaidō. I argue that these American professors contributed to Japan’s colonial expansionism in at least three ways: by helping the Kaitakushi physically transform Hokkaidō into a Japanese settler colony, by spreading a colonial worldview according to which the Ainu were portrayed as a primitive, dying race similar to Native Americans, and finally by acting as propagandists for Japanese expansionism after their return. Chapter 4 considers continuing links to American technologies of settler colonialism in the next generation through the writings of Satō Shōsuke on Hokkaidō’s colonial status. Satō graduated in Sapporo Agricultural College’s first class and later studied land policy in America before returning and becoming president of his alma mater.

Part II investigates Japan’s early colonization of Taiwan and the debates over its colonial status, which remained highly ambiguous for more than a decade after its acquisition by Japan in 1895. Chapter 5 considers the opinions of three Western colonial consultants from France, Britain and the United States who were engaged by the Japanese government in 1895 from the perspective of assimilation and association. I contend that contrary to previous assertions, all three individuals should be understood as proponents of globally fashionable theories of colonial association rather than as advocates of different national colonial cultures. Chapter 6 is devoted to the writings of Takekoshi Yosaburō, a prominent Japanese proponent of association. I argue that the position of his 1905 book Japanese Rule in Formosa in the domestic political debate over Taiwan’s status has not been fully appreciated and that its 1907 English translation played a crucial role in linking Japan into the trans-imperial academic field of colonial policy studies. Thanks to the efforts of Takekoshi and other propagandists, Taiwan came to be seen as a model colony in the West, especially in the United States where it was widely considered to be a good example for the Philippines, raising Japan’s status among world colonial powers.

Part III shifts focus from colonial territories to expositions, which Japan used to present its empire to a mass public in Japan, its colonies and the West. I argue that expositions were one of the most important sites at which the global trans-imperial culture was created and maintained. Chapter 7 investigates how the Japanese Empire was presented to a Western public at the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition in London, where it displayed its various colonial territories in detail for the first time outside of Japan. Chapter 8 analyzes presentations of the constituent parts of the Japanese Empire at the Takushoku hakurankai or Colonization Exposition that was held in Tokyo two years later.

Based on the above case studies, this dissertation concludes that contrary to common assertions, colonial assimilation was not a salient characteristic of Meiji imperialism, and that Japanese leaders did not emulate specific French assimilationist models as is commonly asserted. Instead, leading colonialists in both France and Japan, as well as other empires, were concurrently influenced by new, anti-assimilationist ideas of colonial association, including conserving resources by allowing indigenous laws and customs to be maintained as much as possible, making colonies financially self-sufficient and endowing a separate colonial administration with vast discretionary power. This is not to say that assimilation did not have proponents in Japan and that it did not sometimes inform Japanese colonial policy, but rather that it did not form the dominant mode of Japanese colonialism at this time. While examples of assimilationism can be found in Meiji Japan, I contend that these have been anachronistically exaggerated by later historians as a result of their greater familiarity of Japan’s later radical assimilation drive. The ideas that would later be collectively known as association so dominated the global trans-imperial discourse of colonial administration at this time that countries like Japan that aspired to influence and respect by the world’s “great powers” could hardly afford to ignore them. Assimilation was widely censured as a failed policy by inept “Latin” colonizers like Spain and could therefore only be advocated by Japanese politicians in a domestic context. Even then, opponents of assimilation had a powerful tool at their disposal in the ostensibly scientific arguments of numerous well-known Western theorists. Though not always completely successful, Japanese overseas propaganda still managed to use presentations of Taiwan’s efficient management along associationist lines to convince many Westerners of Japan’s aptitude for colonization, allowing it to participate in many of the key institutions of the global trans-imperial culture and even, at times, to serve as an inspiration to other empires.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Växjö: Linnaeus University Press, 2018. , p. 344
Series
Linnaeus University Dissertations ; 310
Keywords [en]
global trans-imperial culture, association, assimilation, Hokkaido, Taiwan, expositions, Japanese colonialism, Japanese Empire, colonial history, colonial administration
National Category
History
Research subject
Humanities, History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-70921ISBN: 978-91-88761-31-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-70921DiVA, id: diva2:1182986
Public defence
2018-03-09, Homeros, Växjö, 13:15 (English)
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Note

Research funded by the Linnaeus University Centre for Concurrences in Colonial and Postcolonial Studies and Forskarskolan i historiska studier (Lund University)

Available from: 2018-02-16 Created: 2018-02-15 Last updated: 2018-02-16Bibliographically approved

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