Complex Lives, Contingent Tactics
Most women, however, refused repatriation, either provisionally or permanently. A good number of those interviewed had been involved in long-term relationships and built families with their partners/husbands before coming to China, and some had lived in China for decades when consular police officers located them. They often reported that their lives were hard, but gave no indication of having been abused. In some places, Japanese wives socialized with each other and enjoyed ample freedom of movement; a few were quite well off. Other women expressed ambivalence about leaving. Consular investigators often attributed women’s reluctance to depart to their attachment to their children (whose nationality may have been in dispute and whose fathers would have been loath to let them go), lack of money or proper clothes, or feelings of shame and resignation. One should not exclude the possibility that in some cases, women avoided speaking up out of fear of the consequences of doing so, or had been numbed by abuse into a state of resignation. Nor, on the other hand, should we discount love or desire as a factor that drew couples together and kept them so in the face of harsh material conditions, cultural frictions, or even domestic violence. Women’s ambivalence also stemmed from causes such as a sense of obligation to or affection for their Chinese families. In many cases, they were no doubt endeavoring to enact the moral prescriptions of dutiful obedience to one’s husband and his parents with which they had been inculcated since childhood. As geographer Lieba Faier has observed, one cannot understand people’s “transnational lives without considering their emotional worlds and the cultural discourses of gender and affect that shaped them.”
Rather than try to pin down women’s “true intentions,” it seems more prudent to explore the tactical choices that women made as they assessed their shifting situations and the pathways that appeared open or closed to them at any given moment. A deep/thick map of the movements connecting Japan and Fuqing, Japanese women and Fuqingese men, can draw out the multiple stories that might otherwise remain simply data points for a single argument (however nuanced it might be). These stories not only confound the narrative of ignorant women being abducted by rapacious Chinese; they break apart unquestioned notions of nation and territory and help us build an understanding of worlds shaped by translocal intimacies: what Tony Ballantyne and Antoinette Burton call the “multiple contingent spaces” created by empire, and “the fractured and fragmented character of imperial power.” Through a focus on intimacy -- what anthropologist Ara Wilson calls "a useful category of transnational analysis" -- we can elucidate “linkages across what are understood to be distinct realms, scales, or bodies,” and develop histories of empire, nation, family, and identity formation that avoid reifying any of those categories.
[Or, we can ask another question, part of this history of translocal intimacies and transgressive mobilities that has completely fallen by the wayside: What became of Ogura's daughter Kimie?]
This page belongs to more than one path.