2007 Annual Meeting


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Race and Gender in Japanese Empire

Organizer and Chair: Su Yun Kim, University of California, San Diego

Discussant: Chris Hanscom, Harvard University

This panel investigates the race and gender of Japanese Empire in a comparative context. Each participant explores how the imperial government's policy influenced understandings of race and gender at the peak of imperial expansion (1930s-1940s) in three different contexts: Japan proper, Colonial Korea, and Southeast Asia. Among the panelists, Myong A Kwon examines the writings on Southeast Asia by Korean intellectuals, which present the region as primitive and uncivilized. These writings show a tremendous anxiety amongst intellectuals about Korea’s future “place” within the Japanese Empire given the discovery of a new colony, Southeast Asia. Sang Mi Park examines the wartime Japanese state’s effort to improve its image in the West by dispatching the Takarazuka Girls’ Revue to Europe and the United States, hoping to promote better images of Japan through displays of staged female body. And Su Yun Kim looks at literary representations of interracial marriage and romance between Korean and Japanese, literature that attempted to articulate the interracial union as “natural” following the claims of the colonial government’s policies. Through highlighting the importance of the Japanese imperial structure in the reorganization of the category of race and gender in the region, the three papers will demonstrate how the Empire’s Others have shaped the imperial center politically, intellectually and culturally in the above three contexts. The panel hopes to initiate within Japanese Empire Studies a new conversation that extends beyond the boundaries of the national history.


Hegemony Surrounding the Positions within Empire: Strategy of “Survival” of the Korean in the Pacific War

Myoung A Kwon, Hanyang University, Korea

This presentation will illustrate the anxiety of Koreans in the Pacific War and of Korea’s place in the Japanese Empire. As a consequence of gaining a new colony, namely Southeast Asia (Nambang), Korean intellectuals felt that the previously stable position of Korea was in danger within the structure of the Empire. At the same time, the discovery of new territory was regarded as a new chance to make fortunes. These contradictory desires of Koreans were represented in the various kinds of narratives – policy drafts, newspapers and magazines, and fictions – regarding SEA. Deeply influenced by the imperialistic Pan-Asianism of “the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere,” Koreans accepted SEA as part of Japanese Empire as well as colonial projection of the region, while the Japanese colonial government was catering to the Korean’s demand to secure its position in the new regional order. As the result, the prevailing representations of SEA were dominated by depictions of the locals being inferior, undeveloped, and lazy natives. The entire region was constructed as same as the “indigenous” or “native” race, often equated with images of primitive women. Koreans, who had been part of the Japanese Empire longer and thus had become more civilized and advanced, took this given hierarchy to assume the superior position within the new Asian context. Furthermore, the relationship between SEA and Korea built during the Pacific War continued after liberation and even to this very day.


Performing Japan and the Takarazuka Girls’ Revue in the West during the War

Sang Mi Park, Princeton University

I discuss wartime Japan’s efforts to project a gentle image of Japan to the West.  Japan tried to reach out to the external world by boosting cultural relations with the Western powers to compensate for its restriction on the foreign diplomatic relations.  The Japanese state leaders launched a gendered form of non-militaristic aspects in the process.  Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Gaimush˘) and the Kokusai Bunka Shink˘kai (the Society for International Cultural Relations) initiated the project of cultural production exports. My presentation also reveals that the wartime Japanese state required the participation of the private sector in the state-initiated public relations.  Here I focus on the field of theater.  As a case study, I examine the Takarazuka Girls’ Revue (Takarazuka Shojo Kagekidan), one of the most representative commercial theaters in Japan, subsidized by the Hankyu Railway Company (Hankyu Dentetsu).  The state dispatched the Revue to Europe and the United States in the late 1930s, hoping to promote better images of Japan through display of the female body on the stage. The state’s affiliation with theaters exemplifies the dilemma faced by the Japanese government, which is that the state could not constantly have the theater production in its control. The interplay among the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the KBS, and the Revue reveal the negotiations between the state’s purposes and private interests to spread Japan’s “soft” image.

Constructing Race and Gender: Literatures on Interracial Marriage and Romance between Korean and Japanese

Su Yun Kim, University of California, San Diego

In this presentation, I focus on the literary representations of race and gender in Colonial Korea through reading of literatures on interracial marriage and romance between Korean and Japanese, by reading Korean author Yi Hyo-sok’s Korean and Japanese writings. Naeson ilche (J: naisen ittai, E: Japan and Korea as a single body) uniquely existed in colonial Korea from the mid-1930s to 1945, departing from the 1920s’ assimilation policy which was promoted more widely throughout the Japanese Empire. At the discursive level, naeson ilche policy gave hope to Korean intellectuals that they could attain the statue of a modern liberal "equal" subject, in return of becoming Japanese, despite the brutality of forced assimilation and war mobilization. Interracial marriage and romance between Korean and Japanese in the Japanese empire must be understood within the context of this forceful assimilation policy which disturbed the dynamic of gradual colonial assimilation. In this presentation, I examine the representation of Japanese women in interracial marriage and romance fictions by Yi Hyo-sok in relation to his earlier work on Manchuria. Important questions are: 1) how interracial marriage and romance brought new articulation of modern relations of race and gender; 2) how the concept of race and gender were interconnected in the discourses of interracial coupling; and 3) how Yi constructed a sense of Otherness through his interracial coupling narratives.