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A cutting-edge collection exploring identity-making in East Asia

This is an interdisciplinary study of the cultural politics of nationalism and national identities in modern East Asia. Combining theoretical insights with empirical research, it explores the cultural dimensions of nationhood and identity-making in China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. The essays address issues ranging from the complex relations between popular culture and national consciousness to the representation of ethnic/racial identity and gendered discourse on nationalism. The cutting-edge research on the diverse forms of cultural preacceptance and the various ways in which this participates in the construction and projection of national and ethnic identities in East Asia illuminates several understudied issues in Asian studies, including the ambiguity of Hong Kong identity during World War II and the intricate politics of the post-war Taiwanese trial of collaboration.

Addressing a wide range of theoretical and historical issues regarding cultural dimensions of nationalism and national identities all over East Asia, these essays draw insights from such recent theories as cultural studies, postcolonial theories, and archival-researched cultural anthropology. The book will be important reading for students of Asian studies as well as for serious readers interested in issues of nationalism and culture.

Kai-wing Chow is Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures. Kevin Doak is Associate Professor of History. Poshek Fu is Associate Professor of History and Cinema Studies. All three teach at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780472067350
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

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Constructing Nationhood in Modern East Asia

By Poshek Fu

University of Michigan Press

Copyright © 2001 Poshek Fu
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0472067354

Chapter 1 - Three Realms/Myriad Countries: An "Ethnography" of Other and the Re-bounding of Japan, 1550-1750

Ronald P. Toby

A nation can have its being only at the price of being forever in search of itself, forever transforming itself in the direction of its logical development, always measuring itself against others and identifying itself with the best, the most essential part of its being; a nation will recognize itself in certain stock images, in certain passwords known to the initiated.. . . It will recognize itself in a thousand touchstones, beliefs, ways of speech, excuses, in an unbounded subconscious, in the flowing together of many obscure currents, in a shared ideology, shared myths, shared fantasies.

--Fernand Braudel, The Identity of France

Identities, both individual and collective--that is to say, psychological, social, cultural, and ethnic--are constituted psychologically and culturally through processes of distinction, the perception or invention, and the demarcation of asserted difference of the self from an ever-increasing array of others. Benedict Anderson's influential work on Indonesia articulates a notion of the nation as a community imagined fromwithin and stresses the ideological generation of internal similarities, consistencies, and continuities within a politically constituted, bounded geographic area that historically had contained a dazzling array of cultural, linguistic, and ethnic diversity. At the extreme, one might read Anderson as positing the nation from within as a self without others, an internal similitude without external difference. Eugen Weber, likewise, focuses on discourses of similitude, the effacement of what Braudel later saw as the nearly infinite variety of linguistic and cultural microclimates within "France" that brought about a unified "French" nation, with but passing reference to the discourses of difference, distinguishing what was homogenized as "France" and "French" from what was excluded as different.

Freud, by contrast, writes of a "narcissism of petty differences" (narzismus der kleinen differenzen), a discourse of distinction of the collective, community self from its proximate, yet excluded, "othered" neighbors. He argues that the gross differences that distinguish the collective self from the radical alterities of far-off, little-known strangers are of far less import in the construction of identities than the articulation of "petty differences" between the self and its best-known, most familiar, proximate others. Thongchai Winichakul, in a critique of Anderson, amplifies upon Freud's theme (though he does not refer to Freud), arguing that nations cannot be "imagined" solely from within as communities of similitude constructed without reference to the excluded other. Rather, he argues, the nation is constructed precisely by "identifying those characteristics which do not belong to us, rather than by considering positively any natural qualification of 'us.'" This process, Freud's "narcissism of petty differences," privileges differentiation from the familiar, proximate Other over distinction from the less well-known, distant alien.

In this chapter, I examine some of the early modern roots of the "imagined community" of the Japanese "nation," looking at discourses of difference in an age of political and ideological unification but also an age of radical challenge to historically dominant cosmologies in Japan. Politically, "Japan" might be said to have existed in the mid-sixteenth century, if at all, only as an imagined ideal and goal, much like the Holy Roman Empire: The archipelago had been torn by virtually ceaseless civil war since 1467 and had barely reconstituted itself into a series of territorial "kingdoms," principalities engaged in constantly shifting strategic alliances to defend themselves against the depredations of invariably hostile neighbors. It was as "kingdoms" that the first Europeans referred to the many principalities they found upon arriving in late-sangoku Japan in the 1540s and 1550s.

I take a position closer to that of Freud and Winichakul than to Anderson, and read the "nation" as constructed at least as much in a dialogic engagement with "imagined communities" of excluded others-- aliens distinguished by imagined differences, both petty and great, from the included, imagined "nation," its land and people, customs, language, and lifeways--as in any process of imagining the internal community in an intracultural soliloquy. For, despite the seemingly self-evident ocean borders of the island-country of "Japan," neither those borders nor the "country" it delineated was self-evident in 1550--nor even today, when the borders of Japan are in dispute with Russia, both Koreas, and both Chinas. I shall examine the processes of imagining an increasing variety of excluded Others, peoples and creatures defined as "not Japan," and "non-Japanese," even before there was full internal agreement upon where Japan was, and who was Japanese.

The two centuries encompassed by this study are the years of final transition from a "medieval" to an "early-modern" order--both political and ideological or cosmological in Japan; they also coincide with Japan's first encounters with peoples from beyond China. This European--initially Iberian--encounter from the mid-sixteenth century catalyzed a transformation of Japanese consciousness and cosmology; the emergence of distinct new structures and discursive practices, especially with regard to the modes of representation; and the strategies for constituting and deploying "knowledge" of the foreign and distinguishing it in a rhetoric of "petty differences" that one might characterize as the precondition for imagining the nation that would be Japan.

I shall limit the present inquiry to a set of questions centered on conceptions/representations of Japan's Other(s), those "not-Japanese" creatures--human or otherwise--and places "not-Japan," against whom (or which) "Japan" constituted itself. I shall be more concerned with establishing the emergence of a new array of significant structural and discursive forms that mark the shift into the early modern era--the beginnings of a kinsei discourse--than with their ending, their transformation into a "modern," or fully "national," discourse of self and Other. In doing so, that is, I am interrogating the notion of "Japan" itself as a historically-constituted artifact produced at a particular moment and reproduced or reconstituted periodically in an ongoing dialectic of identity.

There was, I shall argue, a distinct shift, not merely in the "objective" relationship of "Japan" to its Others--"not-Japans"--but in the cognition of both Japan and not-Japan in the Japanese consciousness, that may be located in the mid-sixteenth to mid-seventeenth centuries. This shift, moreover, accompanied a shift in representation itself that allows us, for the first time, I believe, to speak of a Japan that has a discursive, representational consistency unifying all "Japan" and all "Japanese"--although the margins of both Japan and Japanese remained themselves raggedly unclear and contested. The shift in representation reflects a shift in cosmologies, from a universe of Three Lands (sangoku) to a world comprised of Myriad Lands (bankoku), and in epistemologies and strategies of representation that suggest an "anthropology" (jinrui-gaku) of alterities evocative of the panoptic posture of the National Geographic.

An equally compelling line of inquiry, of course, prompts us to ask when--or whether--the discursive structures of identity that coalesced as an "early-modern" discourse on identity(ies) ceased to have the power to explain and convince, to ask when the "early-modern" ends. That inquiry I leave to a separate study. I shall suggest, however, that new modes of both constituting and organizing "knowledge" as it applied to the Other (and to the Self, though that is another inquiry) were formed in the late sixteenth century and that these modes signaled the loss of heuristic power in the sangoku model and its gradual displacement by a bankoku model.

Sangoku: The "Three Realms"

Although one cannot locate a unitary cosmology comparable to the monotheistic, theogonic cosmology of the Judeo-Christian "tradition" that held unquestioned, hegemonic sway in either elite or--to the extent we can "read" it--popular Japanese consciousness prior to the mid- sixteenth century, there is little question that most Japanese shared a vision of a division of the world into three parts: the sangoku (Three Realms) of Wagacho (our country); Shintan or Kara (the continent), which included both "China" and "Korea"; and Tenjiku (India). Japanese merchants, adventurers, and religious traveled to and from various parts of kara, while a variety of comparable karabito (men of Kara) likewise visited Japan at irregular intervals, but travelers to and visitors from Tenjiku were all but unknown.

The relative merit and priority of the "Three Realms" was contested in Japanese Buddhist and Shinto cosmological theory, with Buddhist cosmologies generally positing a Tenjiku-centered cosmos, as visualized in world maps that radiated outward from Mount Sumeru, and placed Japan at the far margins, a hendo shokoku or "small land at the margins." This cosmology represented the buddhas and bodhisattvas as prior, original essences, honji, and the deities of Shinto as localized manifestations, suijaku, contingent manifestations in Japan of universals originating in Tenjiku. Medieval Shinto theology, spurred by the successes of Japan's myriad deities in fending off the Mongol invasion, reversed the sequence of priority, positing the Japanese deities as the original forms, or roots, which then grew, like tree trunks, through Shintan, to leaf and flower in Tenjiku as the buddhas and bodhisattvas, manifestations of originally Japanese universalities in Buddhistic form. Yet, in sangoku cartography, the centrality of Tenjiku was unshakable. In the late-fourteenth-century Go-tenjiku-zu, for example, the world consisted of one vast continent comprising Tenjiku and Shintan surrounded by stormy oceans with a mountainous "Shikoku" and "Kyukoku" floating precariously above the waves at the eastern edge of the sea; Honshu, home to the centers of Japanese power and culture, has literally fallen off the edge of the world.

The attempt to reformulate a Japanese-centered sangoku was itself intimately bound up with notions of shinkoku, of Japan as the "Land of the Gods" or "Divine Land." Shinkoku thought, as first expressed in the archaic histories compiled in the eighth century, was premised on the notion that the Japanese land and people were uniquely descended from Japanese progenitor deities and "confirmed" by foreign recognition: "I hear that in the east there is a shinkoku, called Japan," averred a Silla prince, according to the Nihon shoki. In later years, Japan's divinity became the predicate of both historiography and diplomacy. For Kitabatake Chikafusa, it was the underlying premise of all Japanese history: His Jinno shoto ki begins from the declaration that "Japan is the shinkoku." Likewise, Toyotomi Hideyoshi's edict of 1587 ordering the Catholic missionaries expelled is premised on Japan's divinity: "Because Japan is the shinkoku, it is an outrage that [men from ] strange lands [come and] propagate false doctrines to mislead the people . . ."

There was, as has recently been shown, substantial fluidity and variation in notions of shinkoku. Nor was there a unitary sangoku cosmology, we discover. Rather, there was a multiplicity of noncongruent sangoku cosmologies, contesting the relationships among the "three realms." Yet within that intellectual and ideological tension the sangoku comprised the entire plane of known and imagined ("seen and unseen"?) realms until hitherto unimagined creatures ruptured the cosmology from beyond its limits.

When those unimagined creatures from beyond the limits of the cosmology actually appeared, rupturing Japanese cognitive spaces and toppling the sangoku cosmology, it would require new epistemologies-- new "techniques of knowledge"--to comprehend and organize an understanding of both the lands and the peoples of the "brave new world" Japan discovered. These techniques, I would argue, are as much a part of the rupture in the discourse as the objects of knowledge they were mobilized to comprehend.

The Iberian Irruption and the End of the Triad

The tripartite cosmology that had held sway in Japanese consciousness for a millennium since the introduction of Buddhism in the sixth century was irreparably shaken by what I have called the Iberian irruption of the mid- sixteenth century. Portuguese, followed by Spanish and other European traders, raiders, and missionaries, first found their way to Japan in the 1540s. The initial Iberian arrival in Japan, in 1543, was more remarkable, or at least more remarked, for its technological impact--the first known appearance of modern firearms in Japan--than for the strangeness of the humans who brought these early arquebuses to the island of Tanegashima off the southwest coast. Indeed, the Teppo ki, an early "account of the arrival of firearms," while interesting in every detail of the new weapons, offers no description whatever of the people who brought them. But a scant six years later, when Francisco Xavier, one of the founders of the Society of Jesus, landed in Satsuma in 1549 to begin preaching the gospels to the "heathen" Japanese, it was the strangeness of the person, as well as his doctrine, that attracted attention.

Xavier remained in Japan for only a few months on his first visit, but in his wake came dozens of others, both Catholic missionaries and a host of secular sorts: Portuguese aristocrat-soldiers, merchants, common seamen, and slaves and crew members from India and (perhaps) Africa. In what seemed only a moment, the universe had opened and Japan was no longer "one in three," but "one among myriad" countries and peoples in the wide, wide world. To be sure, Japanese merchants had already encountered a wider world in their peregrinations, for long before the mid-sixteenth-century "Xavierian moment" Japanese traders and freebooters had been sailing the waters of Southeast Asia. Portuguese ships had taken Malacca in 1511 and were active in the South China Sea by the second decade of the century, and it strains credibility to think that Japanese and Portuguese had somehow avoided each other for more than three decades while crisscrossing the sea lanes of Southeast Asia.

In the years after Xavier's visits, dozens of missionaries and hundreds of Iberian merchants, soldiers, and seamen came to Japan. As warring Kyushu daimyos competed to attract the foreigners, their trade, and their firearms to their domains, the outlanders became a fixed presence in western Japan and a regular sight on the streets of the capital, Kyoto, and the trading city of Sakai (just south of modern-day Osaka). Their fixity in the landscape was enhanced when in 1571 Omura Sumitada, daimyo of Arima, granted the port--then but a fishing village--of Nagasaki to the Society of Jesus, making of the town a center of Portuguese residence, trade, and evangelism. By 1587, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi confiscated Nagasaki, the town boasted a foreign population-- Portuguese, Chinese, and others--of hundreds, a church, and a school for catechists. Similarly, the Jesuits had established a collegio in the province of Bungo on the eastern coast of Kyushu and--of perhaps greater cultural significance--had built a church in the capital on land granted by the emperor.

My purpose in cataloguing these landmarks of the Iberian presence is not simply to list key moments in the narrative of European encroachment into Japan's physical environment, nor to rehearse the tragic--or triumphant, if one's viewpoint is that of the invaded--"Christian century" narrative of initial evangelical successes snuffed out by Japanese intransigence (or Jesuit arrogance). Rather, it is to suggest that the Iberian irruption into Japanese consciousness and discursive space constituted a fundamental rupture in the discursive structure. The appearance of real people from the third-realm world of trans-Kara subverted and destabilized the sangoku cosmology, rendering it ultimately irreparable, and forced the construction of a "brave new world" of myriad realms (bankoku) populated by a formerly unimaginable variety of peoples. How the mutually perceived "radical alterity" of Japanese and Iberians affected Iberian cognitive space--if it had any lasting impact at all--is not my concern here; its effect on Japanese cognition, however, is critical to my argument.

Kibi Daijin and Sumiyoshi Daimyojin

Prior to the Iberian irruption, as I argue elsewhere, Japanese iconography barely admitted the possibility of non-Japanese on Japanese soil. Visual representations of Chinese in China, or of "Indians" (beings from the land of the Buddha) in a quite imaginary India, which no Japanese had even seen, were a common, even essential element in Japanese iconography and cosmology. Similarly, tales of both China and Japanese travelers in China were common.


Excerpted from Constructing Nationhood in Modern East Asia by Poshek Fu Copyright © 2001 by Poshek Fu. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Pt. 1 Narrative Schemes, Language, and Printed Texts
1 Three Realms/Myriad Countries: An "Ethnography" of Other and the Re-bounding of Japan, 1550-1750 15
2 Narrating Nation, Race, and National Culture: Imagining the Hanzu Identity in Modern China 47
3 Narrating China, Ordering East Asia: The Discourse on Nation and Ethnicity in Imperial Japan 85
Pt. 2 Nostalgia and Loss in thbe Formation of Modern National Identity
4 Discoveries of the Horyuji 117
5 Political Ritual in the Early Republic of China 149
6 In Search of HISTORY in Democratic Korea: The Discourse of Modernity in Contemporary Historical Fiction 189
7 Cosmopolitanism and the Ideal Image of Nation in Communist Revolutionary Culture 215
Pt. 3 Diaspora, Gender, and Ambiguity of Identity
8 Between Nationalism and Colonialism: Mainland Emigres, Marginal Culture, Hong Kong Cinema, 1937-1941 247
9 Trials of the Taiwanese as Hanjian or War Criminals and the Postwar Search for Taiwanese Identity 279
10 The Sing-Song Girl and the Nation: Music and Media Culture in Republican Shanghai 317
11 Narratives of Exile and the Search for Homeland in Contemporary Korean Japanese Writings 343
12 The Regime of Authenticity: Timelessness, Gender, and National History in Modern China 359
Contributors 387
Index 389
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