Dr. Aya HINO

An Imagined Future, Disappearing Futures: ‘Nihon-gaku’ and Colonial, Internal, and Imperial Differences within the Japanese Nation-Empire

© RUB, Marquard

This postdoctoral research project addresses the attempts to reconstitute a discursive network of colonial, internal, and imperial differences that discursively sustained and legitimated the future of the Japanese empire envisioned by the Japanese political and intellectual elites. More concretely, the project identifies three loci crucial for such attempts, which together constituted a liminal space, or a transformative threshold, to reiterate those differences. The first is the semantic and conceptual shift from ‘shukan’ (the observing subject) to ‘shutai’ ( the acting subject) we see in the early 20th century, which, as the primary cognitive apparatus, re-enacted the boundaries of ‘Japan’ and ‘Japanese’ as the modern subject, as collective self-consciousness, vis-à-vis the internal and external other of the Japanese empire. The second is what I term here as ‘the grammar of teikoku (empire)’, which offered a discursive disguise for the hierarchised scale of differences established by ‘shutai’.

My engagement with ‘shutai’ and ‘the grammar of teikoku’ will constitute a conceptual and analytical backdrop for the third and main locus of research, that is the field of knowledge called ‘nihon-gaku’ (studies of Japan) developed at imperial universities as a site of self-knowledge production and dissemination for the ‘Japanese’ students and scholars to reiterate the scale of differences, and as a mode of cultural assimilation of colonial subjects into imperial subjects. By critically engaging with these loci, this postdoctoral project seeks to understand contestations and negotiations built into a discursive network of colonial, internal, and imperial differences, and to account for the ways in which a specific future of Japan and East Asia was articulated in a liminal space between epistemology (cognitive practices mediated by the idea of ‘shutai’), politics (the Japanese empire instituted and legitimated through the grammar of teikoku), and cultural production (knowledge production and dissemination through nihon-gaku).