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

Borders and the Liminality of the Japanese Empire

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

It is widely known that people of Okinawa/Ryūkyū suffered as the "internal colony" of Japan since Japan forcefully annexed the Ryūkyū Kingdom. Existing studies both in English and Japanese have uncovered how islanders suffered political discrimination, cultural marginalization, and poverty under the Japanese government. However, they pay little attention to the fact that the Ryūkyū Islands are a border zone, adjacent to China, Taiwan, and the Philippines across the sea. Thus, this module demonstrates the history of Okinawa/Ryūkyū as a border zone of East Asia, and uncovers people's experiences of the construction of the border/boundary, which demarcated and connected Okinawa/Ryūkyū with Taiwan.

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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