ASIAN STUDIES CONFERENCE JAPAN

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     Seventh Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday, June 21-Sunday 22, 2003
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University

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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181

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Session 30
On the Periphery of the Empire: The Creation of New Racial, Cultural and Gender Identities in Modern Japan
Organizer/Chair: Peichen Wu, University of Tsukuba

This panel will explore the gap that opens up between colonial language and colonial realities under the Japanese empire. Discourse on race, nation culture and gender was constructed during the formative period of the Japanese empire and exercised its influence in a number of domains. If we reconsider, however, the stereotypical categories to which this discourse gave rise from the vantage point of the peripheral figures excluded by such discourse, we find the categories break down completely. The existence of "figures on the periphery"-whether migrants displaced by colonial development and war, hybrids produced by mixing of cultures, or women who rejected hegemonic gender roles as "good wife and wise mother"-constitute a challenge to the stereotypical categories of "race," "nation," "culture" and "gender."

Each of the presenters in this panel will take up and explore one of these figures, real or fictional. We aim to upset the stereotypical categories of colonial discourse and reconsider the significance of peripheral figures in the shaping of new identities under the Japanese empire. Peichen Wu will explore problematic gender representations of the picture brides in early 20th century Japanese emigration and show how they were linked to representations of female students. Robert Tierney will look at Nakajima Atsushi's ambivalent portrait of a Micronesian intellectual in the story titled "Mariyan." Anne Sokolsky will talk about Tamura Toshiko portrayal of a Japanese-American boy lost in the interstitial space between the racist oriented nationalism of Japan and America in her short story "Bubetsu" (Scorn).

1) Peichen Wu, University of Tsukuba. "The Representation of the Picture Bride and the Degenerate Female Student: The American-going Boom and the Picture Marriage"

The so-called picture marriage came to be the most general marriage style among the first generation of Japanese immigrants (Issei) around 1912, not only because there appeared sexual unbalance among the immigrant population but also because the inter-racial marriage was difficult. In the discourses on the picture marriage, the picture brides were often described as "sexually immoral" and "degenerate." It is interesting to notice that the label of "immorality" and "degeneracy" was also attached to Japanese female students. The contemporary mass media coverage of the picture brides in the Japanese communities in the United States attributed the cause of supposed "immorality" or "degeneracy" of the picture brides to the very fact that they had been female students (jogakusei agari) in Japan before coming to the United States. It seems that the label of "immorality" and "degeneracy" was always ready to be attached to those who transgressed the boundaries of the "domestic," especially the picture brides, who passed over the national boundary between their domestic country and the United States, and the female students, who, because of their higher education and knowledge about foreign countries, would not be satisfied with the roles of domestic wives and daughters assigned to them by the contemporary ideology of patriarchy.
This paper will explore the ways in which problematic gender representations of the picture brides in early 20th century Japanese emigration, particularly the fact that they were linked to gender representations of female students (the two groups overlapped) led to the formation of a discourse on the sexual depravity of picture brides.

2) Robert Tierney, Stanford University. "Portrait of a Post-colonial Intellectual: Transcending Colonial Binaries in Nakajima Atsushi's 'Mariyan'"

In The Myth of the Homogenous Nation, Oguma Eiji notes that from 1910 to 1945, the Japanese people (yamato minzoku) never made up more than 70% of the total population of the Japanese empire. Not only was cultural hybridity thus a well-known fact of life in prewar Japan but it also became a central focus of Japanese social science research with the outbreak of the Pacific War. How did Japanese writers react to the new hybrid identities that imperial expansion was producing at an accelerating rate? To answer this question, I will look at a story entitled "Mariyan" by Nakajima Atsushi (1909-1942), a writer who worked as editor of Japanese language textbooks in Palau in 1941. Mariyan, a well-educated Palauan woman, both fascinates and repels the writer. Nakajima's ambivalence reflects the basic contradiction of Japanese colonial rule: Japan aimed to assimilate the colonial others through education but refused to grant them citizenship or equal rights. However, the text "Mariyan" challenges colonial discourse and particularly its dichotomy between primitive Micronesians and civilized Japanese. Without Mariyan's cooperation, the ethnographer in the story would have no real access to Palauan culture and no way to construct it as an object of knowledge. In addition, Mariyan represents a Micronesian point of view on the Japanese with whom she associates and a critical stance toward colonial representations of Micronesia. In this brief sketch of the culturally hybrid Mariyan, we can already see a post-colonial intellectual who talks back to colonial power.

3) Anne Sokolsky, University of California, Berkeley. "No Place to Call Home: Negotiating the 'Third Space' for Returned Japanese-Americans in Tamura Toshiko's 'Bubetsu' (Scorn)"

Many critics consider Tamura Toshiko the archetypal Japanese New Woman writer. This is only half of her writing story. The other half has been given scant attention in either Japanese or American scholarship. During a brief three-year period from 1936 to 1938, Tamura wrote nine short stories that appeared in the main Japanese literary magazines of the time. These stories are based on both Tamura's eighteen-year residence in North America in which she witnessed the racism that Japanese immigrants had to contend with as well as her reactions to Japan's militarism once she returned to her home country. In this paper, I focus on "Bubetsu" (Scorn), which was written before she left Japan to work as a special correspondent in China for Chuo koron (Central Forum). "Bubetsu" is about the plight of Jimmy, a young Japanese-American who idealizes Japanese culture after seeing the Japanese Olympic players' victory in the Los Angeles games. Disheartened by the racism he must face daily in the United States, he goes to Japan to experience what he perceives to be the superior culture of his native country. Not long after his arrival in Japan, Jimmy realizes that most Japanese look at him with disdain because he is not truly Japanese. Using the theoretical framework of post-colonialists such as Homi Bhabha and Trinh Minh-ha, I examine how Tamura juxtaposes words such as "bunka" (culture) and "bunmei" (civilization) with "yaban" (barbarous) and "mikai" (uncivilized) as the Other becomes the Otherer. By reversing and subverting these binaries, Tamura reveals the false premises and paradoxes upon which ideas of cultural supremacy, pure race, and nationalism were used as rhetorical weapons to justify one group's oppression of another during the politically turbulent years of the 1930s

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