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Fashioning a Scientific Persona in a Colonial Borderland: The Many Identities of William Smith Clark in 1870s Colonial Hokkaido
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
2018 (English)In: Presented at Scientific Persona and its Incarnations, Stockholm University, Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2018Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Even in so international a field as science, those who are hard on luck may sometimes seek a new start overseas. In the 1870s, Massachusetts-native William Smith Clark had accrued many achievements, including a prestigious doctorate from Göttingen University, a successful research career in botany, a position as founding president of a land grant college in his hometown of Amherst and a reputation as a charismatic, skilled orator. Nevertheless, frustrated by university politics, financial difficulties and perhaps a midlife crisis, Clark jumped on the chance to establish a copy of Massachusetts Agricultural College on the northeast Asian island of Hokkaido when recruited by the Japanese government.

Hokkaido at this time was the site of an ambitious settler colonial project undertaken by the new Meiji regime to demonstrate Japan’s credentials as a civilized, “great power.” In this liminal, multifarious contact zone far from New England and even Japan proper, Clark skillfully managed to combine numerous identities, including scientist, amateur missionary, teacher, explorer, farmer, bearded white man, Yankee and father figure to craft a flamboyant persona that won the lasting respect of his students and Japan as a whole. Clark is memorialized with laudatory biographies, statues and history textbook entries in Japan, but his role in Japanese settler colonialism has received less attention. Indeed, his persona was asserted largely at the expense of the indigenous Ainu people. Clark’s success and fame in Japan have also overshadowed his professional demise after returning to America. Unable to successfully reintegrate to American society, Clark’s inflated persona would destroy his academic and scientific career as he embarked on ever wilder and risker adventures, eventually losing everything. Using Clark’s correspondence and publications, this paper will critically investigate the creation of Clark’s complex identity, involving the creative combination of multiple discourses of power in a colonial borderland.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2018.
Keywords [en]
William Smith Clark, scientific personae, settler colonialism, Hokkaido, Sapporo Agricultural College
National Category
History
Research subject
Humanities, History
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-78976OAI: oai:DiVA.org:lnu-78976DiVA, id: diva2:1266222
Conference
Scientific Persona and its Incarnations, Stockholm University
Available from: 2018-11-27 Created: 2018-11-27 Last updated: 2019-06-25Bibliographically approved

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Hennessey, John

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
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More styles
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More languages
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