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Ruins of Identity

Ruins of Identity: Ethnogenesis in the Japanese Islands

Mark J. Hudson
Copyright Date: 1999
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  • Book Info
    Ruins of Identity
    Book Description:

    Many Japanese people consider themselves to be part of an essentially unchanging and isolated ethnic unit in which the biological, linguistic, and cultural aspects of Japanese identity overlap almost completely with each other. In its examination of the processes of ethnogenesis (the formation of ethnic groups) in the Japanese Islands, Ruins of Identity offers an approach to ethnicity that differs fundamentally from that found in most Japanese scholarship and popular discourse. Following an extensive discussion of previous theories on the formation of Japanese language, race, and culture and the nationalistic ideologies that have affected research in these topics, Mark Hudson presents a model of a core Japanese population based on the dual origin hypothesis currently favored by physical anthropologists. According to this model, the Jomon population, which was present in Japan by at least the end of the Pleistocene, was followed by agriculturalists from the Korean peninsula during the Yayoi period (ca. 400 BC to AD 300). Hudson analyzes further evidence of migrations and agricultural colonization in an impressive summary of recent cranial, dental, and genetic studies and in a careful examination of the linguistic and archaeological records. The final sections of the book explore the cultural construction of Japanese ethnicity. Cultural aspects of ethnicity do not emerge pristine and fully formed but are the result of cumulative negotiation. Ethnic identity is continually recreated through interaction within and without the society concerned. Such a view necessitates an approach to culture change that takes into account complex interactions with a larger system. Accordingly, Hudson considers post-Yayoi ethnogenesis in Japan within the East Asian world system, examining the role of interaction between core and periphery in the formation of new ethnic identities, such as the Ainu. He argues that the defining elements of the Ainu period and culture (ca. AD 1200) can be linked directly to a dramatic expansion in Japanese trade goods flowing north as Hokkaido became increasingly exploited by core regions to the south. Highly original and at times controversial, Ruins of Identity will be essential reading for students and scholars in Japanese studies and will be of interest to anthropologists and historians working on ethnicity in other parts of the world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6419-4
    Subjects: Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    In the early summer of 1689, the poet Matsuo Bashō visited the town of Hiraizumi in northern Japan during his journey upThe Narrow Road to the Deep North. Five hundred years previously, Hiraizumi had been the capital of the powerful Northern Fujiwara clan and one of the largest cities in Japan, but now its former splendor had gone, overgrown by the summer grass of Bashō’s famous poem.

    The impermanence of existence is a central theme in Bashō’s work. Yet within that impermanence there is also continuity, symbolized by the material traces of the past, theato—the ruins or...

  5. PART I Japanese Ethnicity:: Histories of a Concept

    • 2 Tales Told in a Dream
      (pp. 23-56)

      This chapter argues that the course of research on ethnogenesis in the Japanese Islands has been strongly influenced by nationalististic discourses in Japanese society. It is not suggested that Japanese archaeologists and anthropologists as a whole have consciously supported the emperor-centered nationalism of the Japanese state. As a generalization, the opposite is true, but nationalism has always provided a context for debates on prehistory. In particular, a primordialist view of ethnicity, the view that the JapaneseVolkwas created at a single time in antiquity and has continued to be a bounded and essentially unchanging essence ever since, will be...

  6. PART II The Yayoi and the Formation of the Japanese

    • 3 Biological Anthropology and the Dual-Structure Hypothesis
      (pp. 59-81)

      This and the two following chapters discuss three types of evidence pertaining to the Jōmon-Yayoi transition and thus to the initial formation of the Japanese people. This evidence is the result of biological anthropology, historical linguistics, and archaeology. It will quickly become clear that these are academic fields with very different histories and characteristics. Biological anthropology is the most international field. Not only do Japanese scholars publish prolifically in English, but foreign anthropologists are also widely involved in the analysis of Japanese material. The Euro-American contribution to Japanese historical linguistics has similarly been of great importance. Here, however, the field...

    • 4 The Linguistic Archaeology of the Japanese Islands
      (pp. 82-102)

      In this chapter I argue that the Japanese language first spread through the Japanese Islands with agricultural colonization from the Yayoi period, replacing the previous Jōmon language(s) except for Ainu in the north. This hypothesis is based on recent theoretical work on the relationship between languages and population movements and on linguistic research on the historical development of Japanese dialects. The model proposed here provides linguistic support for the expansion of Yayoi/Japanese populations out of Kyushu and is thus consistent with the biological evidence presented in the previous chapter. The model does not directly support immigration from the continent, but...

    • 5 From Jōmon to Yayoi: The Archaeology of the First Japanese
      (pp. 103-145)

      In the previous two chapters, I argue that the biological and linguistic records support the model of Yayoi immigration and population expansion outlined in the introduction to this book. It is now time to see whether this model is also supported by archaeology. This chapter discusses the archaeological evidence relating to three major topics. The first is the development of food production in the Islands. Since my model of Japanese ethnogenesis is based on agricultural colonization by Yayoi farmers, we need to see to what extent the Yayoi period marked an economic transition. Are we correct in describing the Yayoi...

    • 6 An Emerging Synthesis?
      (pp. 146-172)

      To what extent can the biological, linguistic, and archaeological data presented so far be used to support a model of initial Japanese ethnogenesis in the Yayoi period? The preceding chapter shows that a wide range of new cultural traits arrived in the Initial Yayoi phase: bunded paddy fields, new types of polished stone tools, wooden farming implements, iron tools, weaving technology, ceramic storage jars, exterior bonding of clay coils in pottery fabrication, ditched settlements, domesticated pigs and jawbone ritual, and megalithic tombs. In every case where the origin of these traits is known, they all clearly derive from the Korean...

  7. PART III Post-Yayoi Interaction and Ethnogenesis

    • 7 Ethnicity and the Ancient State: A Core/Periphery Approach
      (pp. 175-205)

      Part II of this book argues that the first stage of Japanese ethnogenesis occurred in the Yayoi period, when farmers from the Korean Peninsula and their descendants began to spread their genes, language, and agricultural lifestyle through the Islands. Part III moves on to analyze the processes of ethnic change and construction that occurred on the basis of the Japanese core population established during the Yayoi. Most existing approaches to this problem have assumed ethnic groups to be natural, sui generis communities. Particularly in the case of peripheral groups such as the Emishi and Hayato, it has been proposed that...

    • 8 The Unbroken Forest?: Ainu Ethnogenesis and the East Asian World-System
      (pp. 206-232)

      Aview of the Ainu as a primitive, hunter-gathering people essentially unchanged since the Jōmon has long dominated the Western literature. Bicchieri’s (1972, 448) comment that “Despite historical contact with the Japanese, the culture of the mainland had little impact upon the lives of the Ainu until Japanese colonization … in the late nineteenth century” is typical of many. Rouse writes that the medieval Japanese “developed both commercial and political relationships with the two outlying peoples [of Hokkaido and the Ryukyus],but did not influence them strongly enough to affect their separate identities” (Rouse 1986, 72, emphasis added). Even Hechter...

    • 9 Japanese Ethnicity: Some Final Thoughts
      (pp. 233-244)

      In this book, I have discussed ethnogenetic processes in the Japanese Islands from the Yayoi until the early medieval era. I argue that the analysis of ethnogenesis in premodern contexts cannot begin with current standard definitions of an ethnos as an emic self-identity or as an essentialist cultural unit. The proper place to begin is with the available biological and linguistic evidence that may be used to determine the existence of what have been termed “core populations.” A core population may correspond to an ethnos or may simply be a group of people with shared genetic and linguistic components; historical...

  8. Postscript
    (pp. 245-248)

    It was a late June morning, hot and clear after the end of the rainy season. I had arrived at Hitoyoshi on the early train from Kumamoto, the track hugging the fast-flowing waters of the Kuma River up into the mountains. A car from the Menda Board of Education was waiting at the station, and after brief introductions we set off on the twenty-minute ride to Menda Township. One member of the welcoming party was a woman who had spent time in Bournemouth and spoke the type of natural English that is still rare in Japan. Her presence was welcome,...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 249-254)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 255-318)
  11. Index
    (pp. 319-323)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 324-326)