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

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

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

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

Synopsis

Tropics of Savagery is 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.

Excerpt

Tropics of Savagery looks at the culture of imperial Japan, the most important nonWestern 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. Borrowing from Hayden White’s Tropics 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 other, Japan exercised domination over its colonies through the deployment of “tropes,” that is, figures of speech, as well as through military conquest, political control, and economic exploitation. As Nicholas Thomas writes of the English empire: “Colonial culture includes not only official reports and texts related directly to the process of governing colonies and extracting wealth, but also a variety of travelers’ accounts, representations produced by other colonial actors such as missionaries and collectors of ethnographic specimens, and fictional, artistic, photographic, cinematic and decorative appropriations.” in this book I focus on tropes of savagery in Japanese literature and representations that Japanese writers made of the tropics during the colonial period.

Many Japanese writers traveled to Japan’s tropical colonies and wrote fictional works, travelogues, popular articles, and a vast variety of other texts about savage or primitive societies. in this book I consider works by Ōshika Taku, Satō Haruo, Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, Nitobe Inazō, Hijikata Hisakatsu, and Nakajima Atsushi that appeared during Japan’s colonial period (1895–1945). These writers made the savage a foil against which the Japanese constituted themselves as members of a modern, civilized nation. At different stages of Japan’s colonial trajectory, the savages . . .

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