井の中の蛙

5/18/2012

Diaspora And Diplomatic Communities Memorialize Conflict

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:49 pm Print

A memorial plaque was dedicated in a park in Palisades Park, New Jersey in 2010 which reads

In Memory
of the more than 200,000
women and girls who were
abducted by the armed forces of
the government of Imperial Japan
1930′s-1945
known as “comfort women,”
they endured human rights
violations that no peoples should
leave unrecognized.
Let us never forget the horrors
of crimes against humanity.

Two things struck me about this article from the NY Times. The first is in the headline: “New Jersey Town’s Korean Monument Irritates Japanese Officials.” There have apparently been two official attempts to convince Palisades Park to remove the monument, presenting two very different approaches. The first emphasized Japan’s past apologies and attempts to stage reparations as justification for de-emphasizing the sexual servitude issue:
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5/5/2012

Moving Migration Into History

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 9:39 pm Print

Via Aaron Bady, I saw a wonderful article by Imke Sturm-Martin about the challenges of integrating migration history into the mainstream of European historical consciousness.1 Europe is not the only place where migration history has complicated traditional narratives, and where migration history has contemporary political implications, but it is a bit ahead of the curve, thanks to the usual patterns of economic and social change, compounded regional integration. I don’t have time to give this the full treatment it deserves, but Sturm-Martin’s most interesting point is that the full integration of history into master national narratives is very much hindered by those national narratives.

Which migration should become part of a European narrative? The question is not an easy one – the only uncontroversial instances are migrations that lie so far back in time that all can agree on their consequences for European history. It is much harder to agree about migration in recent history and the present, and even individual national historiographies have trouble with such cases. Whenever and wherever the consequences of migration are felt in the present, questions arise of minority rights, group rights, inequality and discrimination, and demand that any “official” history be politically correct.

Like any other public presentation of history, the House of European History in Brussels, due to open in 2014, will be unable to avoid taking a political stance on such questions. … Visitors are to be told about the great migrations of antiquity, about migration from the countryside to the cities during the industrial revolution, and about the refugees and displaced or expelled persons who migrated after both World Wars. This list does not mention the “international” aspects of seasonal migration in Early Modern Europe, a well-researched topic by now; nor does it mention the vast scale of emigration to the Americas from various European countries, or the substantial migration from outside Europe at the end of the colonial era. Even the workforce recruitment campaigns in the southern countries during Europe’s boom years in the 1950s and 1960s is omitted. Such large-scale historical processes have fallen victim to the necessary selection process, but they might perhaps be part of the section “Questions for Europe’s Future”, which aims to throw up questions for visitors to ponder. One of these is, “How can the EU react to the demographic change affecting all its member states? Is encouraging immigration an effective response?”

There is a very powerful trend to turn history into a balance sheet of justice, which migration history often runs right into. But it’s also possible that migration history may make that kind of accounting impossible, done properly.

  1. Sturm-Martin, Imke. Translation by Samuel Willcocks. “Migration: Europe’s absent history,” Eurozine 30 April 2012. http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2012-04-30-sturmmartin-en.html []

5/12/2010

AAS 2010: Annexation Centennial

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 12:39 am Print

Final exams crash onto my desk tomorrow, but I’m as organized as I can be in advance, so I thought I’d do a little belated AAS blogging, especially about the pair of panels on Saturday commemorating the centennial of Japan’s annexation of Korea and the 50th anniversary of Hilary Conroy’s groundbreaking study of same.
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3/22/2010

AAS Love – Self Promotion Edition

It’s a good week for me and the Association for Asian Studies. I just got my Journal of Asian Studies in the mail. Not only did I get the journal, but the cover image is my photograph of firefighters at the 1985 Atsuta Festival. There’s an article that goes with it, Mary Alice Haddad on the democratization of volunteer fire departments, which is quite interesting1, including the fact that there are almost 900 thousand volunteer firefighters in Japan, which makes it one of the larger civic traditions.

In addition, the very first review in the Japan section is Jeffrey Lesser’s review of Japanese Diasporas: Unsung Pasts, Conflicting Presents and Uncertain Futures, Edited by Nobuko Adachi, in which I have a chapter. He doesn’t mention my chapter in the review2, but he does praise the book generally, and the review includes discussion of another work — Toake Endoh, Exporting Japan — which apparently addresses a familiar argument about the relationship between colonial and migration policy in useful detail.

To make it a perfect week, I’d have to be going to the AAS Meeting in Philadelphia. Well, I am! I’ll be presenting a paper on Friday afternoon joined by some very interesting folks:

Session 106: National Borders and Memory Borders: The Prewar Japanese Diaspora and Postwar Memories of the “Homeland”
Hometown pride and “safe” international history in rural western Japan, Martin Dusinberre
Diaspora Memory: Selective Histories of Japanese Emigration, Jonathan Dresner
Lost Homeland: Colonial Memories of Manchuria in Okinawa after World War II, Shinzo Araragi
Beyond Conflicted Memories of the “Second Hometown”: a homecoming tour of Japanese repatriates to the Philippines , Mariko Iijima

Many thanks to Martin, in particular, for organizing the panel.

Naturally, I’ll be blogging and tweeting the conference, as much as I can.

Now, who else will be there, and when can we have a blogger meetup?

  1. I didn’t know that when I gave permission to use the picture, of course, but I figured Wasserstrom, et al., knew what they were doing []
  2. none of the reviews I’ve seen have, actually. It’s not entirely surprising, since my chapter is a little odd-man-out, looking at diaspora from the perspective of the Japanese government’s anxieties about the cultural illiteracy of emigrants, instead of from a particular diaspora community. []

7/29/2009

Imperial Visits and Attitudes

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 12:57 am Print

I just learned of the Japanese Emperor and Empress’ visit to Hawai’i [via]. It’s not the first time that a member of the Japanese Imperial family has visited the islands, though you would hardly know it from the gushing “historic” reports of the media. Though this is the first visit by Akihito as Emperor, Akihito has visited the islands before, as have other members of Japan’s now-symbolic dynasty. In addition to the Advertiser’s photo gallery, there are some excellent shots on Flickr by “731photo” and “onecardshort”, as well as one picture from the US Pacific Command.1

The continuing connection between the Hawai’i Japanese immigrant community and Japan was a matter of strategic concern from the beginning: The Kingdom of Hawai’i wanted to use Japan as a counterweight against US power; the Republic of Hawai’i used the threat of Japan — which was actively concerned about the treatment of Japanese in Hawai’i — to support the annexation of the islands by the US; in the Territorial era, disputes about immigration and about labor organization often involved the Japanese consulate.2 Yamaguchi Prefecture immigration memorial -FullCentennial And it’s also true that the Japanese government considered Japanese emigrants to be an extension of the nation3 , and tried, in a fairly blunt fashion, to influence foreign opinion through the overseas communities. By the 1910s and 20s, discussion in the media and halls of power of the Hawaiian Japanese community as a potential “fifth column” was pretty common, and that view was also common on the mainland. It took an immigration ban, a war, Japan’s crushing defeat and entry into the US security system, and the “blood sacrifice” of Nikkei serving with distinction in the US military to overcome those fears, and transform the Japanese immigrant community and their descendants into simply “ethnic” Americans. So, a little over twenty years past the end of WWII, fifteen past the end of the US occupation, the centennial of Japanese immigration into Hawai’i could be celebrated with public monuments, publications and events.

This history is why I was so disturbed to read about PRC policy which sees overseas Chinese as intelligence and lobbying agents. There’s a reasonable argument to be made — as Ichioka does — that Japanese government policy towards emigrants gave support to anti-immigrant attitudes in the US and elsewhere. It’s true that other governments treat emigres as resources to some extent, and urge their citizens overseas to represent the nation well, but the level of coordination, and open encouragement distinguishes pre-war Japanese policy and current PRC policy from the rest of the pack. I don’t think we’re on the verge of a “Yellow Peril” panic in the US at this point, but there’s no question that this has lead to serious negative consequences for individuals, and could lead to wider problems in the future.

x-posted.

  1. That it’s a better shot of the Admiral than of the Emperor is, I suppose, not surprising. []
  2. See Gary Okihiro, John Stephan, also Morris-Suzuki []
  3. see also []

5/28/2009

Ron Takaki has passed away

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 10:59 pm Print

AndrewMc passes on the word from AsianWeek that one of the founders of ethnic studies and real multi-ethnic immigration history has passed away. Takaki was an Americanist primarily, but as I said at PH,

Takaki’s scholarship on ethnicity and immigration were part of the generation of scholarship which cracked the “Great White Men” historiography in both US and World studies.

Certainly my own scholarship on migration would be inconceivable without scholars like him raising issues and questions.

….the next generation, and ours, building on Takaki’s foundations, which began to make the study of migration truly transnational.

I never got to meet Takaki, though I suppose I was only a handshake away from him during my Berkeley sojourn, but I benefitted immensely from the institutions he helped build and the scholarship he fostered.

9/1/2008

Migration, Nationalism, Empire

Tessa Morris-Suzuki’s recent Japan Focus article, “Migrants, Subjects, Citizens: Comparative Perspectives on Nationality in the Prewar Japanese Empire” is an ambitious attempt to integrate identity, legal and strategic issues related to the problem of citizenship in the context of migrations within and between empires.1 The primary comparative material is to British examples, and students of “empire” as a category will find both familiar and new material to work with. Japan itself had such complicated migratory patterns that it really is a whole class of “comparative” study in itself. Morris-Suzuki pretty much covers the whole gamut: Japanese emigration to Hawai’i, N. America, S. America and Asia; Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese migration under Japanese imperium to places within Japan and within the empire.2

What makes the article particularly interesting, aside from the valiant attempt to clarify the various legal contortions of Imperial citizenship3 , is that it parallels some of the arguments I made in January (and June) — that Japanese attitudes towards emigration and immigration are structured by nationalistic and imperialistic narratives which obscure important aspects and which lay the foundation for current problems with immigrant assimilation. Morris-Suzuki is taking a more legal and strategic approach, noting the various places in which the end of Japan’s Empire left former colonial subjects stranded without citizenship, and the political and diplomatic problems, some of which are still unresolved, and seemingly unresolvable.

Some of these problems clearly should have been solved by the US and allies after WWII: full repatriation of Korean subjects in the Japanese home islands, Sakhalin and Manchuria, for example, would have been entirely appropriate. Or would it? Part of me thinks that the diversity represented by Koreans in Japan should have been a good thing for leavening, a bit, Japan’s self-definition as homogenous, but clearly, if it was supposed to accomplish something with regard to multi-cultural understanding, it’s a gloriously failed experiment. The paper almost invites counter-factual speculation: if the lines had been drawn differently, would there have been a significantly different result? Could Japan, in the early 20th century, have developed a version of Imperial Nationalism which wasn’t racialist, or a citizenship system which wasn’t patriarchal and instrumentalist?4

  1. It also contains a citation to one of my own publications, which is always fun, but it’s on a minor point, and her main discussion of material related to my article comes from other sources. Oh, well. []
  2. She does talk about the integration of Okinawans to some extent, but leaves out their anomalous status after WWII. Not a complaint or a criticism, though it does raise fascinating questions. There’s just not enough room in the world to cover everything. []
  3. and in this regard, Japan’s koseki family registration system seems to be arguably simpler and more reasonable than several of the British attempts to both authorize and limit the mobility of colonial subjects []
  4. there was an article in one of my regular journals recently — AHR, JAS, JJS — which argued that Japan’s Imperium forced it to adopt a more flexible definition of multicultural national identity, but I can’t remember which one and the move has obliterated any organization I had in my journals. I wasn’t terribly convinced at the time, and a large part of my reservation had to do specifically with what Morris-Suzuki highlights: the rhetoric of integration was one-sided and the legal status of colonial subjects was never considered a subject for rectification. []

5/1/2008

Otakon: Desperately Seeking Academics

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 11:15 am Print

I hear through the grapevine that the organizers of Otakon, the huge anime/manga/pop culture convention held every in August in Baltimore, are looking for academic papers and panels on East Asian art, history, and culture to round out their offerings. Interested parties should contact Omar Jenkins, Head of Programming.

4/25/2008

Wonders of Modern Life

I’m pleased to announce the publication by Shinsensha of the translated version of Japanese Diasporas, ジャパニーズデイアスポラ, 足立伸子 (編著), including my article “一八八五~九四年の移住者への訓示.” 1 I learned, in the process of writing this post, that my article (in the English language edition) is actually cited and used correctly on the Wikipedia Japanese Diaspora page: “The Japanese Government was keen on keeping Japanese emigrants well-mannered while abroad in order to show the West that Japan was a dignified society, worthy of respect.” I may have to revise my opinion of wikipedia, after all.

Japanese Diasporas in Japanese

In other news, Manan Ahmed sent me this Japanese Robot video, and while watching it I was struck by the realization that the early modern Japanese robots are based on a much older Japanese technology: Bunraku puppets. In this video, for example, you can see a demonstration of how the facial features are manipulated.

  1. Professional Question: Is the translation listed as a separate publication on the c.v.? If so, do you note that it is a translation of an earlier publication? If not, do you just list it under the original publication: “published in translation as….”? []

3/13/2008

Conference at the Huntington Library

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 8:37 pm Print

I’ve been wanting to write about a wonderful local resource, the Huntington, for a long time, but couldn’t figure out how to work it into a post. It is located in the wealthy town of San Marino, an interesting community just south of Pasadena. The Huntington (or, to use its full name, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens), has one of the best archives in the country for British and American history and literature, 15th century European books, history of science, maritime history, and Renaissance exploration and cartography. The place has the manuscript collection of Jack London, for cripes sake. They also have an excellent research library that has a surprisingly large number of Japan-related items. In fact, the last time I searched under “Japan” I got more than 1800 hits – we’re not talking about Japanese-language materials, but still, some interesting things can be found. Their art collection, which focuses on British and French art of the 18th and 19th centuries, probably has some ripe examples of Japonisme, though I haven’t investigated.

Most fun, perhaps, is the Japanese garden, which Kendall Brown wrote about in his book Japanese-Style Gardens of the Pacific West Coast. The garden is a wonderful example of American Japonisme and Orientalism that embodies, in a physical landscape, certain ideas about “the East” from the early 20th century. It was, after all, “collected” by the railroad magnate Henry E. Huntington (1850-1927). Like many Japanese-style gardens in the region, it’s questionable authenticity has not prevented it from becoming both a major tourist destination and an important community resource for Japanese Americans. It also happens to be incredibly beautiful, like the sprawling cactus garden, the extensive Australian garden, the British herb and rose gardens, and the newly installed Chinese “Garden of Flowing Fragrance.”

A lot of people, particularly scholars who work in American history, spend time researching and writing, and enjoying the grounds, at the Huntington during the week. It’s not a bad life, from what I can tell. The research program includes conferences, fellowships, and other interesting opportunities.

So, finally, I wanted to mention that the Huntington is hosting a conference, April 4-5, 2008, titled “Pacific Passages: Connecting East, West, and Center in the Pacific Basin.”

Histories of the Pacific, histories in the Pacific, histories around the Pacific—the proliferation and increasing prominence of Pacific history offers various ways to conceptualize its geographies and understand its peoples. This conference examines different approaches to Pacific histories and cultural encounters throughout the Basin and also considers oceanic frameworks as a historical methodology.

The schedule includes two papers that are obviously related to Japan, and others may also be related: David Howell, “Homeland Security: Preparing for Foreign Invasion in Late Tokugawa Japan” and Andrea Geiger, “Cross-Pacific Debates about the Contours of Race and Class: Meiji-Era Japanese Immigrant Challenges to North American Categories of Exclusion.”

To register, email skrasnoo@huntington.org or call 626-405-3432.

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