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

Border and Liminality of the Japanese Empire

This module elucidates the construction of border/boundary that demarcates as well as connects "the metropole"and the "colony" of the Japanese colonial empire. This particularly focuses on the border/boundary between Okinawa/ the Ryūkyū Islands and Taiwan with a particular attention to individuals who travels around Yaeyama Islands.

It has been widely known how people of Okinawa/Ryūkyū suffered as the "internal colony" of Japan since the Japanese forceful annexation of the Ryūkyū Kingdom. The existing studies both in English and Japanese have uncovered how the islanders indeed suffered the political discrimination, cultural marginalization and poverty under the Japanese government. However, they have little attentions to the fact that the Ryūkyū Islands are the border zone, adjacent to China, Taiwan, and the Philippines across the sea. Thus, the module demonstrates the history of Okinawa/Ryūkyū as a border zone of East Asia, and uncovers the people's experiences with regard to the construction of border/boundary, demarcating and connecting with Taiwan.

If taking border/boundary as fundamentally spatial concepts, Henri Lefebvre's Production of Space (1991) is the first and foremost book that demonstrates the dynamic nature of border/boundary. In reconsidering the conventional understanding of space that is divided into "physical space"and "mental space," Lefebvre (1991) demonstrates the theory of "social space." Social space is distinguished from both physical space that is defined by practico-sensory activity and mental space that is defined by philosophers and mathematicians. In re-theorizing the concept of space as a space as a social product, Lefebvre (1991) explores the history of space, and points out the dominance of nation-states in production of space in the contemporary age. He maintains that neither a substantive "legal person"nor an ideological fiction can define a nation state. Rather, the combined forces of the market, which is a complex ensemble of commercial relations and communication networks, and military violence produce the space of a nation-state (Lefebvre, 1991, 112).

This module explores how the border between Japan (the metropole) and Taiwan (the colony) was not instantly determined by the governmental treaty, but constantly negotiated by people who travelled across the border zone. Here, I would like to introduce the notion of "liminality" in demonstrating the malleable and changeable nature of the border Islands, Yaeyama. The concept of liminality was first theorized by a French anthropologist, Arnold van Gennep, but the concept has been creatively broadened and applied to various contexts by the contemporary scholars. In fact, today, the concept of liminality is employed nearly equally to the ides of "in-between," "ambiguity," or "marginality." Yet, I should stress that this module employs the notion of liminality by highlighting the transitionality of the ïn-between'' subjects.

That is to say, the following sections demonstrate the ways in which Japanese imperialist nationalism made Yaeyama Islands the liminal zone and the extent to which liminality defined Yaeyama people's migration to colonial Taiwan. Besides, this demonstrates that people of Japan and Okinawa were active agencies of the Japanese colonial empire, and their discourse and practices of nationalism were incorporated into the colonialism.

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