The Non-emergence of Nationalism : The Historical Anthropology of the Ryukyu Annexation


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  • 「民族問題」の不在 : あるいは「琉球処分」の歴史/人類学
  • ミンゾク モンダイ ノ フザイ アルイワ リュウキュウ ショブン ノ レキシ ジンルイガク

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<p>This paper deals with the political process of and contemporary discourses about the Ryukyu Annexation, the integration (or colonization) of the Ryukyu kingdom into Japan in 1879 as Okinawa Prefecture (Okinawa-ken). It aims to rethink the "myth" that the annexation was an ethnic reunion of the Japanese nation, or that Meiji government justified its invasion by that kind of logic. Those narratives have been disseminated widely through the works of postwar historians. In contrast, this paper shows an alternative, almost totally different, vision of the annexation. First, the people of neither Meiji Japan nor Qing China adopted ethnological theories to back up their political moves for or against the annexation. Secondly, although contemporary American and English media discussed the biological origin and purity of the Ryukyu people, both governments still ignored those discourses. Put differently, the failure of nationalism to emerge during the annexation shows that the existence of Western discourses about ethnicity is not enough to bring about the self-organizing dynamics of nationalism. In the early modern, so-called "Chinese" world order of East Asia, the concept of nationality had far less importance than it does in the modern world. Unlike a nation-state whose legitimacy originates from its people's will, the authorities of pre-modern Asian states were represented by their emperors or kings only. In addition to that historical condition, the modern world system of the 19th century was still not based on the norm of nationalism. Henry WHEATON, in his popular book, Elements of International Law (6th edition), declared that the concept of a nation had nothing to do with that of a state. Therefore, it was no wonder that Meiji government, attempting the jurisdiction of the Ryukyu Annexation, did not take the logic of ethnic identity into consideration. The Japanese foreign minister at the time, TERASHIMA Munenori, told the Chinese minister Ho Ju-chang that the islands should belong to the state they were paying taxes to. Throughout the diplomatic conversation between the Japan and China, neither the concept of Ryukyu ethnicity nor the ideology of a nation-state played any role at all. What is more interesting, however, is the fact that English-speaking people at the time conducted a discussion about the racial and ethnic characteristics of the Ryukyu people. Chars F. FAHS, an assistant surgeon in the fleet of Matthew C. PERRY, had already reported that the inhabitants of Ryukyu were descended from the ancient Japanese; the Japanese scholar OTSUKI Fumihiko published a translation of his paper in 1873. In the summer of 1879, ex-U.S. president Ulysses S. GRANT, serving as the mediator to the Ryukyu problem, mistook the Japanese point of view as a justification based on "the ethnological affinities" between the Japanese and Ryukyu people. Because that misunderstood vision was widely reported through the U.S. media The New York Herald and the Meiji government's puppet newspaper, The Tokio Times, the anti-Japanese English paper in Yokohama, The Japan Gazette, even tried to demonstrate how raising the issue of ethnology would actually hurt the Japanese case, since the inhabitants of the Ryukyu islands seemed to be more racially pure and homogeneous than those of Japan. In the end, ethnological discussions were limited strictly to the American and English contexts: the Japanese and Chinese governments never appropriated such logic to support their political claims over the islands. That means that the lack of ethnographical knowledge cannot explain why neither state used the discourse of nationality. There was knowledge, of course, but several structural reasons prevented it from becoming politicized. A look at the Chinese newspaper Shenbao, published in Shanghai since 1872, shows us that the reasons given by both sides stemmed from the</p><p>(View PDF for the rest of the abstract.)</p>



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