Bodies and Structures

Conclusion: Cai Peihuo's Inner Territory

The story of Nihon honkokumin ni atau illuminates the centrality of space and place to the politics of the Japanese Empire. Unraveling the manifesto's many threads, we see how a text that initially appears to be a rather straightforward demand for self-rule opens into a multi-vocal story of conflicting spatial ideologies and mobile encounters. The text emerges as its own kind of "contact zone."

For historians of modern empire, perhaps the most significant aspect of Cai's manifesto is his insistence that the empire did not have a core-periphery structure of rule. Instead, he argued that it was only with the passage of universal male suffrage in 1925 that such a spatialized hierarchy became possible. From this observation, Cai drew a new "geography of solidarity" (Massey 2008) that reflected the shared plight of "the ruled" around the empire rather than hegemonic geographic-jurisdictional divides between inner territory, Korea, and Taiwan. This new geography, in turn, became a new site of potential political action and historical meaning making.

Whether it was reasonable for Cai, the extremely well-educated scion of Taiwan's liberal movement, to put himself (and all Taiwanese Chinese people) in the same category as the metropolitan urban working class is another question. Indeed, later Taiwanese activists rejected the idea that colonized people and the metropolitan working class represented a self-evident social group. Instead, Taiwanese writers such as Yang Kui argued that no reform could take place without also considering the politics of the class divides within Taiwan (Scruggs 2014; Kleeman 2002?). Other writers from around the empire, such as Kim Saryang, likewise rejected the idea of a unified colonized experience (Kwon 2015). Moreover, Cai's geography of solidarity was also a geography complicit with settler colonialism. The manifesto's demand for self rule excluded Taiwan's indigenous peoples from any claim to authentic ownership of Taiwan much in the same way that the Japanese colonial government did. The spatial politics of settler colonialism continue to define Taiwanese cultural nationalism to this day (Barclay 2017).

Yet, despite the considerable shortcomings of Cai's politics, Nihon honkokumin ni atau makes an important point. In so far as historians describe the spatial hierarchy of the Japanese Empire as core-periphery structure of domination and outward process of cultural assimilation we adopt and perpetuate imperialism's spatial frame. Nothing makes this point more clearly than Cai's own demands, which invoke the jigsaw puzzle spatiality of cultural regionalism and spatialized temporality of civilizational development to lay claim to Taiwan as they deny indigenous peoples the same right of self determination. In his de-spatialization of identity, however, Cai suggests that geographies of solidarity may be a way forward -- multi-vocal spatial histories that tell stories of people whose lives and ideologies intersect at particular locales and which may invoke particular discursive "commonplaces." The result? A map turned inside out, built through histories of people and power rather than place.


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