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Tropics of Savagery

Tropics of Savagery: The Culture of Japanese Empire in Comparative Frame

Robert Thomas Tierney
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Tropics of Savagery
    Book Description:

    Tropics of Savageryis an incisive and provocative study of the figures and tropes of "savagery" in Japanese colonial culture. Through a rigorous analysis of literary works, ethnographic studies, and a variety of other discourses, Robert Thomas Tierney demonstrates how imperial Japan constructed its own identity in relation both to the West and to the people it colonized. By examining the representations of Taiwanese aborigines and indigenous Micronesians in the works of prominent writers, he shows that the trope of the savage underwent several metamorphoses over the course of Japan's colonial period--violent headhunter to be subjugated, ethnographic other to be studied, happy primitive to be exoticized, and hybrid colonial subject to be assimilated.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94766-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-37)

    Tropics of Savagerylooks at the culture of imperial Japan, the most important non-Western colonizer of modern times. It consists of a series of historically situated studies of literary works and of colonial tropes focusing on the theme of “savagery” in Japanese imperial culture.¹ Borrowing from Hayden White’sTropics of Discourse, the title plays on the dual meaning of the word “tropics” to refer to two related aspects of Japanese imperialism. On the one hand, Japan ruled over colonies situated in the “tropics,” although this fact has not seemed especially important to most historians of the Japanese empire. On the...

  5. 1 From Taming Savages to Going Native: Self and Other on the Taiwan Aboriginal Frontier
    (pp. 38-77)

    It is commonly asserted that Japan acquired its major colonies by defeating China and Russia in two major international wars that were fought on overseas battlefields. The fact that colonial wars played an essential role in the formation of Japan’s empire is less well known.¹ Yet consider the following fact: when the Qing dynasty “ceded” the island of Taiwan to Japan in accordance with the provisions of the Shimonoseki Peace Treaty, there was not a single Japanese soldier present to stake his claimto this new cession. Before Japan could transform this territory into a colony, it needed to fight a...

  6. 2 Ethnography and Literature: Satō Haruo’s Colonial Journey to Taiwan
    (pp. 78-109)

    Along with steamships and conscript armies, anthropology arrived in Japan during the late nineteenth century. Western expatriates (oyatoi gaikokujin), an elite, multinational group hired by the Meiji regime to teach in the nation’s new educational institutions and to advise the government, first introduced this science of “savages” to the Japanese. Just as Japanese scholars would later study the racial origins of colonized peoples in the Japanese empire, these Western academics initiated research into the origins of the Japanese. Applying to the Japanese islands the model of colonial settler societies in North America and Australia, they hypothesized that a proto-Japanese “race”...

  7. 3 The Adventures of Momotarō in the South Seas: Folklore, Colonial Policy, Parody
    (pp. 110-146)

    Between 1880 and 1945, Japanese journalists, writers, politicians, and patriots often pormoted Japan’s expansion into the South Seas (nan’yō), an area long dominated by Western powers. The early twentieth century was the key turning point in the development of this expansionist discourse. From this time on, the goal shifted from the development of trade ties with the Pacific region to a more aggressive drive to increase the territory of the nation by conquest and foreign settlement. During the Taisho period (1912–26), an “untiring spate of publications, stereotypes, and slogans exerted considerable influence on the emergence of a South Seas...

  8. 4 The Colonial Eyeglasses of Nakajima Atsushi
    (pp. 147-181)

    InShokuminchigensō (Colonial Fantasy), Masaki Tsuneo uses the metaphor of “Western-tinted eyeglasses” to describe the mimetic and hierarchical gaze the Japanese directed at the lands and the peoples in their colonies.

    Before their nation began to invade Asia, the Japanese learned to look at Asia anew through Western-tinted eyeglasses. Almost four hundred years after the Europeans, Japan attempted to create a new “world” in Asia. It was called the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Needless to say, it was the political and economic culmination of Japan’s modernization. In tandem with this process, there developed a view that the different...

  9. Conclusion: Cannibalism in Postwar Literature
    (pp. 182-198)

    In this book, I have brought to light several works on the theme of savagery from early twentieth-century Japanese literature, works which have generally been neglected in previous scholarship. By closely attending to this theme, I have demonstrated that Japanese writers during the colonial period created elaborate figurations of the savage and of the South, which changed over time in tandem with changes in the empire itself. I have also highlighted the tendency of Japanese writers to use these figures to talk, allegorically, about themselves and their identity as colonizers. Furthermore, I have shown that these texts exemplify Japanese imperial...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 199-248)
    (pp. 249-254)
    (pp. 255-286)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 287-307)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 308-308)