Depictions of transgressive intimacy
Introduction to the path on Sino-Japanese intimacies as spatial stories.
David R. Ambaras
Accounts of Sino-Japanese intimacy were spatial stories, constituted by but also producing spatial realities for their subjects, authors, publishers, and readers. They highlight not only how space was gendered and given ethnoracial attributes, but also how gender and ethnoracial differences were themselves spatially constituted. Official archives, the product of communication among port officials, police, local governments, national ministries in Tokyo, colonial officials, and consuls abroad, reveal the concern with territoriality and border construction and maintenance, and thus highlight the movements that threatened those imperatives. The mass media created an imagined community of Japanese readers, but this too was spatially differentiated: in addition to metropolitan Japan (itself divided in regional readerships), colonial Taiwan, treaty port Shanghai or Fuzhou all constituted localized communities eager to hear about the spaces and movements that most intimately affected their lives. (Hence for example, the incessant interest in this story in Taiwan, a place through which travelers and women exiting Fuqing often passed, and where Fujian figured as “the other shore,” an object of colonialist planning for a "southern advance" strategy.) These local media interacted with each other to create a larger imperial mediasphere, producing various discursive and practical effects. The spatiality of media thus helped to shape the spatiality of mobility.
(In a future iteration of Bodies and Structures, we will develop methods to focus on the spatial circulation and material spatiality of our sources, as well as on their spatial content.)