My New Book: For Undergraduates, History Buffs, and Students of Colonialism and Empire

Smartly produced and attractive paperback and hard-cover copies available at:

Or download a free .pdf version from my Research Gate site: link

Book Review in Taipei Times by James Robert Baron:

New Books in Japanese Studies Podcast, Hosted by Ran Zwigenberg:

University of Minnesota Book Club Discussion with Hiromi Mizuno:

Jonathan Clements Blogpost Review:


Kondo the Barbarian is a gripping and revealing account of the colonial Japanese era in Taiwan, focusing on the Musha Rebellion and its brutal suppression by the Japanese military. The book presents the translated account of Kondō Katsusaburō, a Japanese adventurer who married into an indigenous Taiwanese family. Kondō’s journals offer an intimate and personal perspective on the events, though they can also be unreliable and prone to sensationalism.

To help readers navigate Kondō’s account, Barclay has provided a deeply-researched introduction, extensive notes, and context essential to understanding what really happened during the Musha Rebellion. The book sheds light on the cultural clashes and sporadic violence that characterized Taiwan during this period. Through the writing of Kondō, interpreted and contextualized by Barclay, readers gain insight into the complexities of colonialism, imperialism, and indigenous resistance.

The Musha Rebellion was a pivotal moment in the relationship between the indigenous people and the Japanese colonial government. In 1930, after years of oppression, the Seediq people of central Taiwan, led by Mona Rudao, attacked a gathering of Japanese people at a local school, slaughtering over one hundred men, women, and children. The Japanese military responded with overwhelming force, employing tactics including poison gas, artillery, and aerial bombardment to quell the rebellion.

Barclay’s book offers a fresh and engaging perspective on a tragic chapter in Taiwan’s past, and the notes and context provided help readers understand the complexities of the events. The book is an important addition to the growing body of literature on Taiwan’s history, and it underscores the power of personal narratives to illuminate broader historical themes. Kondo the Barbarian is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of Taiwan, the contradictions of colonialism, and the challenges of interpreting personal accounts of historical events.


“Part fact, part fiction, an engrossing account of colonial benevolence and violence. Lucid, learned, and superbly translated, Kondo the Barbarian is an indispensable source for those interested in Taiwan’s colonial history, Japanese settlers’ writing and events leading up to the infamous 1930 Musha Uprising.”

—Leo T.S. Ching, author of Becoming Japanese: Colonial Taiwan and the Politics of Identity Formation

“A fascinating account by a figure who lived a unique colonialist-adventurer life. Barclay’s expert introduction and notes demonstrate a first-rate historian’s skill to verify and contextualize Kondo’s account.”

—Sayaka Chatani, author of Nation-Empire: Ideology and Rural Youth Mobilization in Japan and Its Colonies

“This should become an essential source for understanding one of the most important acts of resistance to Japan’s rule of Taiwan and the complex relationships between Japanese colonizers and indigenous Taiwanese.”

—Evan Dawley, author of Becoming Taiwanese: Ethnogenesis in a Colonial City, 1880s-1950s

“Barclay not only gives us a masterful translation of Japanese colonialist Kondō Katsusaburō’s memoir but puts it into rich historical context. This book is an invaluable resource for understanding the ground-level dynamics of Japanese colonialism in Taiwan.”

—Seiji Shirane, author of Imperial Gateway: Colonial Taiwan and Japan’s Expansion in South China and Southeast Asia, 1895-1945

“Barclay’s beautiful translation brings Kondō the ‘Barbarian,’ a Japanese who lived with Indigenous Peoples in colonial Taiwan, back to life. Engaging, lucid, and illuminating. Highly recommended.”

—Hiromi Mizuno, author of Science for the Empire: Scientific Nationalism in Modern Japan

Kondo the Barbarian ‘de-anonymizes’ the Indigenous Peoples of Taiwan, who are here individuals with names, life trajectories, and their own voices, in the process forcing the reader to reconsider the nature of colonial rule in Taiwan.”

—Nadine Willems, author of Ishikawa Sanshirō’s Geographical Imagination: Transnational Anarchism and the Reconfiguration of Everyday Life in Early Twentieth-Century Japan

“Barclay’s masterful research offers the reader critical context to understanding Kondo’s life and perspective, as well as the implications of Japanese colonial rule and the Musha Uprising for Taiwan’s history.”

—James Lin, Assistant Professor of International Studies at the University of Washington

“With the infamous 1930 Musha uprising as the historical underpinning of the book, Barclay introduces us to this world partly through the eyes of a Japanese adventurer – Kondō “the Barbarian” Katsusaburō – all the while never losing sight of the delicate interplay and agency of Taiwan’s Indigenous peoples. A story that resonates beyond time and place.”

—Kirsten Ziomek, author of Lost Histories: Recovering the Lives of Japan’s Colonial Peoples

Imperial Japan’s Forever War, 1895-1945

New open-access  article  in  the  Asia-Pacific  Journal:  Japan  Focus

This article was launched in the summer of 2019 at the National Archives of Japan in Tokyo.

I was interested in battlefield honors for Japanese soldiers, and other forms of compensation, which are documented in a large collection of manuscript records in this repository.

Based on the documents and catalogs, I made a chart to think about the temporal experience of “wartime” for families, soldiers, and sailors directly connected to military funerals, awards disbursement, and after-war occupations of foreign lands. This resulting chart suggests a nation at war from 1895 through 1945.

This  illustration  from  a 1930s  youth  magazine  shows  that  campaign  medals  were  issued  for  many  more  wars  in  Japanese  history  than  one  usually  reads  about  in  textbooks.

This picture postcard also reflects the publicity that surrounded “small wars” in Japanese history that have escaped the attention of historians. This article presents my thoughts on why these many smaller wars have been ignored, and how our views of Japanese history might change if we took such wars more seriously.

Outcasts of Empire News and Updates

English-language version: Outcasts of Empire: Japan’s Rule on Taiwan’s “Savage Border,” 1874-1945. Oakland: University of California Press, 2018.










Purchase paperback:   UC Press Barnes&Noble  Amazon

Luminos Open Access digital edition [free] (click here)

“What is Asia?”: Podcast hosted by Nakota DiFonzo

New Books Network:  Podcast hosted by Shatrunjay Mall:

Award: Shortlist, International Convention of Asia Scholars 2019 Book Prize, Social Sciences category:


Fabienne Hofer-Uji, Japanese Studies

Hiroko Matsuda, American Historical Review

Mark Driscoll, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies

Anne E. Sokolsky, Journal of Asian Studies 

Nathanel Amar, H-Solz-Kult

Scott Simon, Pacific Affairs

Robert Stolz, Cross-Currents 

Ann Heylen, The China Journal 

Robert Eskildsen, Monumenta Nipponica

I-An Wasiq Gao, International Journal of Taiwan Studies

Michael Turton, The View from Taiwan

Article in The Daily about my book talk at University of Washington in April,

Podcast of Interview with “Meiji at 150” host Tristan Grunow:

Georgetown University book talk:

Yale University book talk:

University of Toronto book talk:

Ohio State University book talk:

University of California Luminosa Open Access blogpost re: Outcasts of Empire:

Article on Lafayette College website:

(from UC Press website):

“Paul Barclay’s exploration of indigenous histories in Taiwan is sophisticated and engaging. This highly original narrative of a formative period will be of great interest to all those concerned with comparative colonial history.”—Nicholas Thomas, Professor of Historical Anthropology, University of Cambridge

“Barclay’s work reveals how indigeneity evolved coevally with capitalist imperialism and nationalism during the last century. It is a multisided and multiscale analysis—incorporating global, regional, and local scales—and it is embedded in a coherent and compelling narrative. Analysts are greatly concerned about resource frontiers in today’s world; this study furnishes them with an indispensable historical framework.”—Prasenjit Duara, Oscar Tang Professor of East Asian Studies, Duke University

“Analytically precise and theoretically ambitious, Barclay’s wonderful new book examines the entanglements of the interstate system, indigeneity, and sovereignty through the case of Japanese-occupied Taiwan. A must-read for anyone interested in the fate of indigenous peoples under modern colonialism.”—Louise Young, author of Japan’s Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism

The expanded, Chinese-language edition of Outcasts of Empire is out: 帝國棄民:日本在臺灣「蕃界」內的統治 (1874-1945). National Taiwan University Press, 2020 (560 pp).

In addition to a preface by my good friend and colleague Chen Wei-chi 陳偉智, the new edition contains over 45,000 additional words of text. The Chinese-language edition benefits from the sharp eyes of translator Yao Chia-ning 堯嘉寧 and editor Tsai Min-chun 蔡旻峻, who made numerous suggestions for clarifying, correcting, and improving the original text. The new edition adds more global and theoretical context, goes into greater empirical detail, and utilizes recently digitized primary source material, to amplify and round out the analysis presented in the University of California Press edition of this book.

Review in the Taiwan National History Museum Journal, Taiwan History:


Musha 1930: History, Memory, Culture 《霧社1930: 歷史、記憶、文化》

Three-day workshop at beautiful Royce Hall, UCLA.

Front row: Kieu-fen Chiu, Darryl Sterk, Paul Barclay, Bob Tierney, Dakis Pawan, Wan Jen, Leo Ching. Middle Row: Jiajun Liang, Toulouse-Antonin Roy. Back Row: Michael Berry, Bakan Pawan, Deng Shian-yang, Wu Chien-heng, Ping-hui Liao
1930s postcard of the Japanese memorial to the fallen from the Musha Incident.

Ren’ai Township, 2010, possible site of the former Japanese  monument.

Wushe, from a 1934 Japanese photograph album

Ren’ai town in 2010 (formerly Wushe).

Site of the Mona Rudo Anti-Japanese Commemoration Monuments (above on google maps; the next five images are from this site)

Statue of Mona Rudo, 2010, near Ren’ai township, Nantou Province

The grave of Mona Rudo, 2010

Derryl Sterk, Dakis Pawan and Bakan Pawan make plenary remarks

(Above) Workshop organizer, film and literature scholar Michael Berry, filmmaker Wan Jen and historian Deng Shian-yang discuss Wan Jen’s 20-hour TV series Dana Sakura, based on story by Deng Shian-yang (next two photos)

Deng Shian-yang’s pioneering books about the Musha Incident

Leo Ching, author of the first English-language scholarly treatments of the Musha Incident and the famous book Becoming Japanese. 

The lodging for the workshop attendees, right on campus.

The Hitodome Pass, on the road from Puli to Ren’ai. In 1900, Tgdaya warriors ambushed advancing Japanese troops. They used their knowledge of terrain and defensive of warfare to defeat the imperial forces.

East Asia Image Collection: Release of the New Design

qingdaoOver the past two years, Eric Luhrs (Director Digital Scholarship Services), James Griffin, and the hard-working team at Digital Scholarship Services, Lafayette College, have redesigned the East Asia Image Collection.  The redesigned site is now functional.  Its new features include: “facets” that allow users to rapidly limit searches, and just as quickly unlimit them; an improved image-viewing interface; the ability to view the backs of postcards, and many more improvements.  The East Asia Image Collection now has 19 sub-collections and over 5100 records (with another 900 in various stages of preparation).

new and old postcard

The East Asia Image Collection is an open-access archive of digitized photographs, negatives, postcards, and slides of imperial Japan (1868-1945), its Asian empire (1895-1945) and occupied Japan (1947-52). Images of Taiwan 台湾, Japan 日本, China 中国, Korea 朝鮮, Manchuria 満洲国, and Indonesia are included. The Collection is built around a core of visual materials donated to Skillman Library Special Collections by the family of Gerald and Rella Warner. Images unique to this collection include the Warners’ unpublished slides and negatives , made from snapshots taken during their years of US State Department service in Asia (1932-1952). Rare materials include prewar picture postcards, high-quality commercial prints, and colonial era picture books. Each record in the East Asia Image Collection has been assigned subject headings, hyper-linked metadata, and, to the fullest extent possible, historiographical, bibliographical and technical data.

Updates, news from the world of visual studies and East Asian politics, history, and culture, and be found on The East Asia Image Collection Facebook page.


We have also created a blog with bibliographies, guides to resources, and research notes:


Imperial China Graphic

I found an old tattered b/w diagram of “Status and Power” hierarchy in Imperial China in my teaching folders. This diagram was produced by G. William Skinner. It was brought to my attention by Edward L. Farmer, at the University of Minnesota. I scanned it and used my Adobe Illustrator to update it. I’ve not found a better shortcut to explaining, in a simple way, how misleading the tag “peasant” can be as a social category. If you like this image, let me know and I’ll send you a file.

Korea in the World: Linkages and Legacies

A Symposium at Lafayette College

November 11, 2011 (Friday)  1:00pm-4:30pm Wilson Room Pfenning Alumni Hall

Korea’s role in international affairs since World War II has been as profound as it is well known.  But the impact of international affairs on the history of the peninsula, and on the lives of over seventy million Koreans, has received comparatively less attention in the American academy.  The purpose of this symposium is to add balance and depth to our understanding of Korea’s role in international affairs by moving beyond the frame that considers Korea as the stage upon which other people’s history is acted out.  In this context, “linkages and legacies” refers to this symposium’s goal of keeping a traditional focus upon Korea’s connections with regional and global structures and dynamics, while putting equal emphasis on the longer history of how entanglements with the international system have impacted Korean society since the 1870s.  In short, “linkages and legacies” asks how the history of Korea’s role in international relations would look if equal weight were given to studying the impact of international relations on the history of Korea.


1:00pm: Welcome, Introductory Remarks:

Angelika von Wahl, International Affairs Program, Lafayette College

Panel One: Linkages

1:15 pm: 

Andrew Yeo, Catholic University, Department of Politics

“Anti-U.S. Base Movements and the Politics of Peace on the Korean Peninsula.”


Il Hyun Cho, Cleveland State University, Department of Political Science

“Nuclear Proliferation and Regional Orders: The Multidimensional Challenge of North Korea and Iran.”

2:15 pm:

Comments by discussant and questions from the audience

Panel Two: Legacies


Seo-Hyun Park, Lafayette College, Department of Government and Law

“Korea’s Search for Sovereignty in the Late 19th Century.”


Paul Barclay, Lafayette College, History

“Korea in the Visual Economy of Japanese Empire: Comparisons with Colonial Taiwan, 1905-1945.”


Comments by discussant and questions from the audience



Robin Rinehart, Lafayette College, Chair of Asian Studies and Department of Religious Studies

Closing remarks and general discussion

This event sponsored by: Department of History, Department of Government and Law, Asian Studies Program, Skillman Library, Policy Studies Program, International Affairs Program and the Dean’s Office of Lafayette College.


a. Linkages

In 1945, with the defeat of Japan, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel by the United States and the Soviet Union.  After disarming Japan, Washington and Moscow backed their respective “client states” in a three-year war (1950-1953) that left millions of Koreans dead while devastating the cities, farms and fields of the peninsula. Henceforth, the U.S. acted as guarantor of allied regimes in South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and South Vietnam.  This global war against socialism, communism, and anti-imperialist nationalism put the United States and the Soviet Union on a permanent state of military preparedness known as the Cold War.

Today, the Cold War is becoming a memory in Europe and the United States, while Korea remains divided and finds itself at the epicenter of another dispute that involves both Koreans and outside powers.  In 2011, the 38th parallel separates one of Asia’s most vibrant and wealthy capitalist democracies from the world’s most diplomatically isolated and impoverished socialist regime.  No longer of value to its former communist patrons as a model for socialist development,  North Korea (DPRK) has become reliant on the development of nuclear weapons as its only international bargaining chip.  As one of the most infamous examples of a “rogue state,” North Korea has become a flashpoint for current international anti-nuclear proliferation disputes.

Whereas in the early 1950s Koreans played host to contending Chinese, Americans, and Russians whose major priorities were geo-strategic and only secondarily regarded the interests of Koreans, the Six Party talks of more recent vintage display a similar mixture of motives and agendas: some local, but most geo-strategic.

b. Legacies

While these two watersheds, the beginning and end of the Cold War, mark the most well known conjunctures of Korean history and international affairs, events on the Korean peninsula have portended epochal shifts in global balances of power and transformations of the international order for some 150 years.  In the late nineteenth century, the United States, Japan, Russia, China, and England all targeted the so-called “Hermit Kingdom” for foreign investment, missionary activity, and diplomatic intrigue.  In the face of foreign pressure, patriotic Koreans founded reform movements to secure popular sovereignty in the face of dynastic inertia and the imperialist threat.  These movements sent Korean scholars, statesmen, and soldiers to East Asia, Europe, and North America in search of aid and solutions.  Today, in the Republic of Korea, this late-nineteenth century burst of intellectual, political, and technological creativity is an important reference point for imagining a progressive, democratic Korean future that is not contingent upon externalities for its integrity and dynamism.

Before these efforts could bear fruit, however, Japanese, Chinese and Russian armies fought each other in Korea to deny the peninsula to rival states.  As a result of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, Korea lost its sovereignty, though not its relevance.  As a colony or protectorate of Japan from 1905 to 1945, Koreans launched a popular press, authored modern literary movements, started up industrial enterprises, and fought armed resistance against the colonizers, creating the nationalist, capitalist, and anti-colonial impetuses that defined post-liberation politics after the Japanese defeat.

c. Linkages and Legacies

Thus, we argue, the history of Korea before the Cold War must be understood before the dynamics of contemporary Korean interactions with the world can be comprehended.  Therefore, we dedicate our first panel to detailed analysis of two aspects of this lesser known, pre-Cold War period of “Korea in the World.” These papers will focus on pre-1945 “legacies” that have continued to shape developments and consciousness on the peninsula well into the 21st century.  The second panel, “Linkages,” will focus on the Korea’s place in the global security system.  Both presenters in this second panel will add new perspectives as scholars well grounded in the languages and histories of Korea and East Asia.






Asian Studies Japan Conference, Tokyo

Thanks to the organizers and my fellow panelists for an informative conference in Tokyo, and especially thanks to Yamamoto Masashi and Vicky Muehleisen for putting up with me for a whole week!

Session 35: Room 316

The Exhibitionary Complex and the Police State: Imperial Pedagogy in Taiwan under
Japanese Rule

Organizer: Paul Barclay, Lafayette College
Chair: Robert Eskildsen, J.F. Oberlin University

This panel conceptualizes several examples of imperial pedagogy in colonial Taiwan as parts of an “exhibitionary complex.” Japanese visionaries, employing techniques explored in the papers, configured the peoples, places, and built environment of Taiwan as a series of exhibits to be viewed, categorized, and displayed for the purposes of statecraft, economic gain, and discipline. By shifting the focus of culture-studies inspired scholarship to individual “exhibitors,” and the agency of the “exhibited,” these papers also argue that colonial “exhibits” were constructed in a context of intra-governmental conflict and local constraints. Caroline Hui-yu’s paper shows how the 1925 Taipei Police Exhibition, ostensibly staged to instruct Taiwanese subjects in “everyday modernity,” could also serve as an arena of competition between recently arrived Japanese policemen and “Taiwan Hands” for influence in the colonial state. Sōyama Takeshi’s paper analyzes government-sponsored tourism as a mechanism for enforcing spatial boundaries between Japanese and Taiwanese in the realm of leisure, while tourism also sought to erase boundaries in the realm of political identity. During the post-1937 period, Taiwanese subverted this pedagogical enterprise by disguising trips to Chinese folk temples as visits to Shinto shrines. Paul Barclay’s paper argues that model villages in Taiwan’s “indigenous territories” failed as commercialized tourism “exhibits.” Nonetheless, they provided image-hungry foreigners with photo-ops that played upon shared Japanese and Western assumptions about the place of indigenes in the international order. These journalists portrayed Japan’s polices favorably abroad, thus vindicating a security apparatus often at odds with the tourism industry.

1) Hui-yu Caroline Ts’ai, Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica
Everyday Coloniality, Social Networking, and Knowledge Production: The 1925 Taipei Police

The interwar years serve as an intriguing period for the analysis of “everyday coloniality.” Following current academic interest in questions of “vision,” this “new” turn of colonial studies tends to rest on a rich ground of “things visible” and “tangible.” The problem, however, is that history is more often than not being abridged or curtailed, and the attempt to seek historical facts is sometimes muted in the process. This case study of the 1925 Taipei Police exhibition illustrates just this need to bring history back to textual analysis. Since the 1925 Taipei exhibition was unique in the way that it seems to have been the only recorded hygienic exhibition initiated by the police in colonial Taiwan, the questions I will ask include arts and culture of the Taishō period (such as music, movies, radio, advertisements, and leisure entertainment), the supporting groups which helped or donated the displayed items, and the makeup of the “old Taiwan hands” (mainly, the police staff and the range of the social networking). Ultimately, I am interested in how Imperial Japan managed to produce its colonial knowledge about Taiwan.

2) Takeshi Soyama, Kyushu Sangyo University
Tourism under Japan’s Colonial Rule in Taiwan: From the Perspectives of Privilege,
Exclusion, Assimilation and Resistance

Japan’s colonial rule in Taiwan caused Japanese cultural concessions in Taiwan. For the Japanese who lived in Taiwan, Taiwan was an extension of the Japanese mainland, and of course, this was also true for the Taiwanese and native Taiwanese. This concept of an extension of the Japanese mainland was categorized into two types. One type was privileged spaces for Japanese people, such as Japanese-style hot springs and inns. The general Taiwanese population tended to be excluded from these attractions that had Japanese cultural characteristics. Elementary school excursions were the only opportunity for access to such places. At the time, elementary schools for Taiwanese children were to assimilate children into Japanese culture. These facilities for assimilation, such as elementary schools and shrines, constituted the second type of extension of the Japanese mainland. In 1937, when the Sino-Japanese War broke out, the Governor-General of Taiwan began to force the Taiwanese to visit and worship at Japanese shrines. In the meantime, the Taiwanese urged the Governor-General Railroad Section to conspiratorially conceal their “joss house” (Chinese folk temple) tours under the disguise of Japanese shrine tours. This situation shows that assimilation and compulsion were cleverly transformed into resistance in the context of colonialism and tourism.

3) Paul Barclay, Lafayette College
Ethnic Tourism, Wartime Surveillance and Public Relations: The Taiwan Photography of
Harrison Forman

On April 1, 1938, the photo journalist Harrison Forman began a tour of Taiwan. Forman’s visit came at a nadir in U.S.-Japanese relations, just after the Nanjing massacres. Although only a few photographs from Forman’s excursion were published, they provide, in conjunction with his unpublished diary and over sixty archived photographic negatives, a telling example of how Japanese officials and merchants utilized the infrastructure of tourism to manage the image of Japanese empire abroad. The great majority of Forman’s images depicted Taiwan Indigenous Peoples, who constituted less that 2% of Taiwan’s population. In general, cameras were tightly regulated and photography discouraged on the home islands and in Taiwan. Nonetheless, the colonial state encouraged the production and dissemination of photographs of Taiwan Indigenous Peoples. Pamphlets, postcards, and illustrated books were readily available at train stations, small shops, and the tourist bureau and freely distributed to foreign guests. This paper asks why Taiwan Indigenous Peoples were treated as the privileged face of Taiwan in the 1930s, while previously they had symbolized the failure of the government general to govern the island. I argue that image-conscious officials and thrill-seeking Westerners found common ground on guided tours to model villages in the “Aborigine Territory.” There, visitors recorded impressions of an orderly yet exotic colony while police officers monitored their movements on easily patrolled interior routes. In the bargain, visitors were diverted from Taiwan’s military installations and other vistas deemed embarrassing or sensitive by the colonial government.

Discussant: Robert Eskildsen, J.F. Oberlin University

Visualizing Asia in the Modern World

I participated in a wonderful conference held at Harvard under the auspices of the Visualizing Cultures project hosted by MIT.  From the conference website:

“The Visualizing Cultures project at M.I.T. and the following programs at Harvard: Asia Center, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Korea Institute, and the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies are pleased to announce an academic conference focused on the relationship between visual imagery and social change in modern Asia entitled, “Visualizing Asia in the Modern World.” This will be the second in a series of academic conferences devoted to “image-driven scholarship” and teaching about Asia in the modern world.

We have selected scholars of history, art history, history of photography, and history of technology specializing in China, Korea, Japan, United States, and Europe to discuss how to integrate visual and textual media in research and teaching, using to the fullest the opportunities presented by the new technologies and the use of the internet as a publishing platform.”

The conference program has an outstanding list of participants with a fascinating diversity of projects that utilize original and revealing but hitherto largely inaccessible visual resources some of which may be suitable for further development as Visualizing Cultures units.”

Joint Conference of the Association for Asian Studies & International Convention of Asia Scholars

March 31-April 3, 2011, Honolulu Hawai’i (Hawai’i Convention Center)

Statue in front of the Convention Center

This was a great conference not only for the weather and beautiful surroundings, but also for the experience of participating on a panel with so many learned scholars, who are also wonderful colleagues. Here’s our panel:

Session 300: Behind and Beyond the Lens: Photography in Imperial Japan, 1896-1945

Organizer: Paul D. Barclay, Lafayette College, USA

Chair: Laura Hein, Northwestern University, USA

Discussant: Laura Hein, Northwestern University, USA

This panel examines photography in its multiple roles as instrument, beneficiary, and victim of empire. Specifically, the papers consider conquest photography in Taiwan (1890s), commercial photography in Korea (1910s-1930s), a newsreel photographer in China and Taiwan (1930s), and art photography during the Fifteen Year War (1930s and 1940s). As these case studies demonstrate, photography surely aestheticized violence, obfuscated power relations, and pandered to voyeurism to make empire emotionally plausible, even attractive. At the same time, we argue that the relationship between the gun and the camera in imperial Japan could be quite oblique, if not troubled. By considering imperial photography as a dynamic enterprise, engaged in by amateurs, professionals, and artists under varied technological and political constraints, we draw attention to discontinuities and dead ends. Though camp followers in 1890s Taiwan were urged to push the medium’s limits as an instrument of mobilization, for example, the state thwarted photographic engagement with war in the 1940s. Moreover, we argue that specific material forms were suited to different kinds of ideological work. While photographs of carnage in Nanjing and Wuhan filled commemorative albums, postcards and glossy brochures retailed images of exotic and contented fellow Asians. For all of its diversity, however, Japanese imperial photography produced a singular cumulative effect. Decades of variation upon a limited number of themes, the incessant reproduction of a pool of stock images, and the wavering support of an overweening state overdetermined imperial Japanese photography’s exhaustion as a vital force by the end of its 50-year career.

Colonial Itineraries: Japanese “Conquest Photography” in Taiwan, 1896-1899
Joseph R. Allen, University of Minnesota, USA

My paper explores early photographic production by the Japanese colonists in Taiwan as manifested in two halftone printed albums (shashinchō), dating from 1896 and 1899. I argue that the first of these albums, that documenting the military campaign to conquer the island in 1895, established a general structural and thematic shape for later albums, including for the travel guide seen in the second album. In part, this was in the photographic trope of “encampment.” Not only did this early “conquest narrative” inform later albums, it also offered a general heuristic model by which the island came to be known to both the colonizing power and the colonized subject. The island was construed as an entity to be known as an itinerary, not as a residence. Those early models continued to inform photographic constructions of Taiwan throughout the colonial and even into the postcolonial period, contributing to the island’s ongoing state of conditionality—that is, its social reality always being construed as dependent on another cultural agent.

Romancing the “Conquered Other” in the Korean Peninsula: Travel Myths, Images, and the Imperial Tourist Gaze
Hyung I Pai, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Visages of dancing courtesans and white-robed peasants framed by decaying ruins of pagodas, temples, and palaces are the most recognized tourist images representing the time-less beauty of Korea’s cultural landscape. This study traces the colonial origins of travel photography, postcards, and guidebooks mass produced by Imperial Japan’s travel industry when they expanded into the newly acquired colonies in Korea and Manchuria in the early twentieth century. Following decisive military victories in the Sino-Japanese (1895) and Russo-Japanese War ( 1905), both public and private, large and small operators from international steamship liners, Japan Tourist Bureau (JTB), the Korea Branch of the Japan Imperial Government Railways Co., South Manchuria Railways Co. and local Japanese settlers’ owned businesses (trams, taxi cos. station hotels, hot springs inns, photographic studios, newspapers, department stores, geisha houses) in colonized cities and towns worked together to lure the growing numbers of colonialists, leisure tourists, students, soldiers, and businessmen to purchase round-trip packaged tours via Japan, Korea and Manchuria (Naichi). This paper analyzes how geo-political factors, aesthetic preferences as well as commercial agendas have determined the selections process of a handful of highly romanticized and exoticized ‘stock images’ representing ‘Koreana’ targeting a world audience for more than century.

When a Thousand Words aren’t Worth a Single Picture: Harrison Forman, The China War and Propaganda by Misdirection
Paul D. Barclay, Lafayette College, USA

This paper analyzes the uniquely detailed documentation left behind by newsreel photographer Harrison Forman regarding conditions for photographers in 1938 Taiwan. It attempts to explain how an otherwise enterprising investigative reporter became an unwitting mouthpiece for Japanese imperialists. For despite the damning observations recorded in his diary, Forman published a sympathetic account of the Government General’s work in Taiwan. Photography as a medium, I argue, tipped the balance. At the height of the second Sino-Japanese War, police restrictions on the movement of photographers operated in tandem with profligate image distribution. By shunting foreigners off to model villages in the interior and providing lavish hospitality in resorts, as well as numerous photo-opportunities, ever-present police minders helped recast Japanese colonial rule as a civilizing mission vis-à-vis Taiwan’s Indigenous Peoples. Forman returned to America in possession of an ostensibly eye-witness photographic record of Indigenous Taiwanese customs and manners, buttressed by officially distributed photographs of Japan’s struggles to stamp out headhunting in the recent past. This thematically consistent visual record simply overpowered the doubt-ridden scribbles in Forman’s notebook. Not only was Taiwan’s role in the war on China thus obscured, but repressive policies in urban Taiwan were pushed to the background.

A War Without Pictures: Photography’s Curious Position in Wartime Japan
Julia Adeney Thomas, University of Notre Dame, USA

Between 1937 and 1945, Japan’s government and the military used almost every imaginable means to mobilize the nation behind the conquest of Asia. Technologically capable and aesthetically astute, Japanese photographers also sought to inspire public support for imperialism, and yet, as I will argue, photography never galvanized the nation. This paper raises two questions. First, why did photography not play a bigger role in the Japanese war effort, especially given the culture’s sophisticated understanding of the visual arts? In comparison with America and Europe, there are few canonical pictures of Japan’s struggle, sacrifice, victories and defeats during the years of fighting. The magazines produced for the domestic market were drab compared with the glossy, glorifying publications produced for the non-Japanese market. Aesthetic experimentation, rather than being harnessed to energize the war effort, was discouraged. In short, what does it tell us that Japan’s war was, in essence, a modern war where photography played a surprisingly limited role? My second question follows on from the first. Is photography the same the world over as many photography theorists insist? If photographs in wartime Japan played a different role than they did in other militarized nations, it shows, I argue, that this “universal technology” is far from universal. I will demonstrate how social and ideological conditions in Japan constructed a distinct place for the photographic image in the 1940s.

I also made my first visit to the Pearl Harbor historic sites run by the national park service. I visited the history museums attached to the USS Arizona memorial, also known as the “WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument.”

The historic sites include the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, the Battleship Missouri Memorial, and the Pacific Aviation Museum.

Of particular interest to me was the historical framing of the attack at the exhibit. The “sneak attack” idea has been considerably tempered by a much broader analysis of twentieth century history. In essence, as the gateway plaque below indicates, the attacks were prefaced by a century of Pacific expansion by the U.S. and Japan (1853-1941). This longer view is more consonant with that put forth by serious scholars of Japanese history, who try to understand how a more-or-less “normal” industrialized power (for the time) would embark on such a seemingly self-destructive course. Interestingly, I bumped into a historian on the shuttle boat to the memorial who had consulted for the museum as a Japanese expert. This historian suggested that the initial drafts of the textual component of the museum were in dire need of such expertise. On the whole, I think the park service did a creditable job on this museum.

“A Gathering Storm” is different than a “Day that will live in Infamy”

But the story of Yoshikawa Takeo, the spy who sent photographic information about Oahu (where Pearl Harbor is located) to Japan still gets pride of place.

U.S. pop culture from the 1930s. Perhaps a “clever” people, Japanese were not considered by many to be capable of standing toe-to-toe with a the U.S. Navy in a real war. A classic case of misunderestimation.

On this poster, European activities in the Pacific are aggrandizing, while the American presence is characterized as a “search for markets.”  And yet, a picture from the Philippines 1898, site of a bloodily aggressive U.S. territorial conquest, is affixed below the ambiguous captioning. Certainly an example of exhibit by committee. On the one hand, the United States is not the same kind of imperialist aggressor as the Europeans and Japanese, but at the same time, it is in global competition for resources, markets and territories. And so it goes.