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Ethnography in East Asia: Colonialism, Modernity and the State
Organizer and Chair: Robert Tierney, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Discussant: Mariko Tamanoi, UCLA
Ethnography as a science of “people without history” was adapted by Japanese and Chinese intellectuals from Western models during the age of empire. After 1895, the Japanese applied this science to the study of people they had colonized; by contrast, Han Chinese employed it to survey non-Han minorities living on the nation’s periphery. This panel examines the multiple trajectories of ethnography in East Asia by looking at the work of practitioners in colonial and post-colonial contexts. Individual papers show how Japanese, Taiwanese and Chinese researchers viewed their roles and how historical and institutional constraints shaped their research agendas. Ethnography will also be examined in relation to modernity, state power, colonialism and literature. Paul Barclay examines the multiple frames of reference that Japanese ethnographers used to make sense of their work in colonial Taiwan and highlights the complex strains that characterize East Asian modernity. Shao Dan shows that Han Chinese ethnographers from 1930 to 1960 defined their research agendas in close collaboration with state projects of regulating borderlands. Wei-chi Chen contrasts the approaches to ethnography of colonizer and colonized in Japanese-ruled Taiwan: whereas colonial law enforcement personnel thought of folklore studies as a form of surveillance over the colonized, Taiwanese intellectuals regarded them as a mode of cultural affirmation. Finally, Robert Tierney shows how the writer Sat˘ Haruo creates a pastiche of an ethnographic report in his story “Demon Bird” and uses it to deconstruct ethnographic discourse and criticize state violence.
Meiji Colonial Ethnography and the “East Asian Modern” in Taiwan
Paul Barclay, Lafayette College
During the first years of colonial occupation (1895-1900), Japanese ethnographers claimed Taiwan’s “Aborigine Territory” as a field of opportunity for their emerging science. Writing as aspiring cosmopolitan academics, they depicted Taiwan’s interior as an historical void, whose peoples awaited description in anthropological journals. As Meiji scholars grounded in the fundamentals of Sino-Japanese literary forms and historical studies, they conceptualized Taiwan’s hill peoples as Middle-Kingdom frontier tribes based on evidence from prefectural gazetteers of Qing administration. This paper examines how these often clashing—but sometimes consonant—narrative frameworks impacted scholarship and policy in light of Prasenjit Duara’s “East Asian Modern” thesis. In Duara’s formulation, nationalist, regional and global discourses on sovereignty and authenticity converged in Japanese governed Manchukuo to produce an aesthetic of statecraft and subjecthood enmeshed in the forces of global modernity, yet distinctively East Asian. We find a related dynamic in early 20th century Taiwan. There, Japan’s ethnographers championed a discourse on race (zhongzu/shuzoku) against an East Asian discourse on civility (hua-yi/ka-i). They also promoted an East Asian discourse of “moral suasion” (jiaohua/kyoka) against a Western discourse on development (kaifa/kaihatsu). In colonized Taiwan, international competition, regional literary traditions, and national politics led Japanese thinkers and officials to adopt an opportunistic mix of regional and international modes of discourse to frame and defend policy toward Taiwan’s Indigenous Peoples. By extending Duara’s framework spatially and temporally, this paper further delineates the continuities and ruptures that straddle two key watersheds in the region’s cultural history: the Sino-Japanese War and WWI.
Ethnography and Borderland Studies in China, 1903-1956
Shao Dan, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Western ethnography was formally introduced to China in 1903 when Michael Haberlandt’s Ethnology was published in Chinese. Nevertheless, Chinese government did not systematically investigate or formally categorize the non-Han population in China until 1956. Although civil and international wars rendered governance over the borderlands ineffective during this period, ethnographical studies of borderland population sparked great interest and were undertaken with intensity during the second Sino-Japanese War and during the early years of the People’s Republic of China. State-sponsored research institutes and research groups in both the Republic of China and the PRC launched several fieldwork projects that aimed to investigate ethnic groups in the 1930s-1960s. These studies were closely related to borderlands studies and strongly insisted that China has only borderlands, not colonies. This paper examines the historical environment in which those ethnological projects were conceived and practiced, and analyzes how intellectuals collaborated with state power in regulating the borderlanders. Based on specific ethnographic projects, this paper focuses on major theoretical writings, fieldwork questionnaire and methodology adopted in these projects. The ethnographical studies of borderland people in both the ROC and the PRC aimed to integrate control of identity with the delimitation of territorial space and delineation of national boundaries, and to disentangle all of these from colonialism. Both regimes adopted a strongly anti-colonial rhetoric. However, scholars’ views of non-Han peoples and governmental policies toward the borderlands reflected the dominant evolutionary framework and ideology.
Colonial Police as Folklorist: Policing the everyday and the rise of folklore studies in Japanese Colonial Taiwan
Wei-Chi Chen, New York University
This paper tries to explain why most folkloric-ethnographic works in colonial Taiwan were penned by Japanese colonial law enforcement personnel such as the colonial police. The existing literature on the history of folklore studies or native ethnography explains its development either as a form of cultural criticism reacting to the development of capitalism or as a return to national authenticity fueling an emerging nationalism. However these two explanations don’t help us to understand in a satisfactory manner the phenomenon of incumbent or retired colonial police acting as folklorists. Policing the colonial everyday on the ground helps to create a category of the interior terrain, Shinri, of the colonized as a means to surveillance of the state of the changing and unchanged observable appearances of customs and the invisible mindset of the colonized, and thus creates a literature of colonial folkloric-ethnography. These writings became an organized body of ethnographic knowledge concerning geography, history, and contemporary practices and customs. These writers, for the most part, experienced a shift in their colonial careers from officer to folklorist and they had specialized in local languages, customs, and everyday social norms. Through their works, they drew an abiding collective image of the Taiwanese folk and assigned to it a temporality of the less developed, if not completely un-modern. Nonetheless, such characteristics of this enterprise also received their challenges from Taiwanese intellectuals who resumed their own folklore studies in the late 20s and early 30s. These activities turned out to be the origins of Taiwanese folklore studies before the wartime project of Minzoku Taiwan.
The Ethnographer and the Writer: Cultural Identity and Violence in Sat˘ Haruo’s Demon Bird
Robert Tierney, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
In 1920 Sat˘ Haruo traveled to Taiwan and became acquainted with the ethnographer Mori Ushinosuke, who befriended the writer and helped to arrange for his visit to aboriginal villages. Sat˘ later published "Demon Bird" (Mach˘), a work inspired by a passage of Mori’s ethnography of the Ataiyal aborigines, in the October 1923 issue of Chű˘ K˘ron. The narrator of "Demon Bird" adopts the perspective of an ethnographer and imitates the style of an ethnographic report to tell his civilized audience about a custom of scapegoating in an unnamed "barbaric" society. He offers an interpretation of this custom and recounts a recent episode of persecution. By his literary indiscretions, he also discloses his own position within a colonial apparatus and underscores the connection between "barbarism” at home and colonial violence. In the end, this narrative about a violent, "barbaric" other is not what it appears to be. While the narrator of “Demon Bird” sets the episode of persecution in a distant land, he also hints at an unspeakable atrocity fresh in the minds of his readers: the massacre of thousands of Korean residents of the Japanese capital during the Great Kanto Earthquake. This short story thus straddles the border of two genres (ethnography and fiction) and links two separate spaces (colony and metropolis). “Demon Bird” appeared at a time when criticism of Japan’s colonial policies by reformist intellectuals was at its peak and epitomizes both the strength and the limitations of the liberalist critique of colonialism.