Primitive Selves: Koreana in the Japanese Colonial Gaze, 1910-1945

Primitive Selves: Koreana in the Japanese Colonial Gaze, 1910-1945

Primitive Selves: Koreana in the Japanese Colonial Gaze, 1910-1945

Primitive Selves: Koreana in the Japanese Colonial Gaze, 1910-1945

Synopsis

This remarkable book examines the complex history of Japanese colonial and postcolonial interactions with Korea, particularly in matters of cultural policy. E. Taylor Atkins focuses on past and present Japanese fascination with Korean culture as he reassesses colonial anthropology, heritage curation, cultural policy, and Korean performance art in Japanese mass media culture. Atkins challenges the prevailing view that imperial Japan demonstrated contempt for Koreans through suppression of Korean culture. In his analysis, the Japanese preoccupation with Koreana provided the empire with a poignant vision of its own past, now lost--including communal living and social solidarity--which then allowed Japanese to grieve for their former selves. At the same time, the specific objects of Japan's gaze--folk theater, dances, shamanism, music, and material heritage--became emblems of national identity in postcolonial Korea.

Excerpt

While staying in Kyōto in September 2004, I went to see a pretty bad movie (which will remain nameless, but I will say its main character is named Van Helsing). I’ve never been so glad I saw a bad movie in my life. One of the seemingly endless commercials preceding the werewolfery featured a percussive jam session of Japanese taiko and Korean samul nori drummers. All too quickly the rhythmic orgy ended, followed by an announcement for the Japan-Korea Friendship Year (Nikkan yūjōnen) scheduled for 2005. the campaign encouraged and promoted initiatives from private citizens and civic organizations for economic and cultural exchange, special events, and educational programs to facilitate the “deepening” relationship between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK). Though wearing distinctive national dress, and beating on emblematic national drums (taiko and ch’anggo), the two troupes created a seamless rhythmic groove designed to inspire similarly sinuous collaborations between these neighbors.

I had unwittingly waded into the crest of the so-called “Korea Wave” (Hallyu in Korean, Kanryū in Japanese). This was my fifth journey to Japan, and the country was experiencing a “Korea boom” unlike anything I had personally seen before. Probably only someone who has haunted Japan’s plenteous record stores as much as I have could appreciate the sheer volume of Korean pop music now available in Japan. in the first decade of the new millennium, a number of K-pop stars had secured huge, devoted followings in Japan, and Korean songs had become a staple in Japanese karaoke. More surprisingly, Korean dramas were broadcast nightly on . . .

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