Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

Conclusion: Mobilities, Margins, and Borders

The histories I have introduced in this module show how different types of mobility and immobility were imbued with gendered as well as ethno-racial differences, how places were constructed in relation to each other through these mobilities, and how mobile bodies took on the material and symbolic functions of borders. “Fuqing” and “Japan” came to be articulated mutually through the flows of people and goods, administrative and popular efforts to control those flows, and contestations over those processes by people whose everyday lives depended on the outcomes. Indeed, Japanese agents who entered Fuqing found that “abducted” women had life histories and perceptions of their interests that grated against both official rhetoric and sensational popular narratives of their situations.

The women who appear in the archive struggled to achieve some sense of control over their circumstances. At times, they were successful. At others, they found themselves overwhelmed by the weight of the multiple structures—from households and communities in China and Japan to regional and national political processes to global economic forces and international dynamics—that intersected in their everyday lives. The Japanese women of Fuqing (and the people from Fuqing who came or “returned” to Japan in more recent years) remind us of the need for further study of mobilities and intimacies in modern East Asia as they were shaped by the evolving dynamics of the Sinosphere and influenced by, but not reducible to, the imperatives of empires and nation-states.

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