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Marshaling Culture: Strategies of Japanese Mobilization in Colonial Taiwan


In 1895, Japan annexed Taiwan, nominally ruled by China, and embarked on a period of expansion that only ceased at the end of World War II. Aside from military force, early colonial policies preserved Taiwanese lifestyles and sought the acceptance of Japanese rule. The colonial government administered cultural policies centered on sentimentality to remake Taiwanese people of aborigine and Han origin into Japanese citizens and imperial subjects amenable to mobilization. New standards of citizenship based on emotional affinity and sympathy were constructed for the Taiwanese, whose feelings and consequent actions became crucial for their positions in the empire. Japanese official documents, newspapers, and textbooks are evidence of Japanese manipulation of Taiwanese emotions and identity in order to motivate submission and collaboration. Martial ideals involving violence were broadly imparted through literacy and ethics. When the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, the colonial apparatus aimed to cultivate genuine self-effacing love for Japan, convertible into direct participation in the war effort by Taiwanese men, women, and children. Stories of patriotic emotional outbursts and moving though violent deaths were disseminated through schools and the press, perpetuating a focus on the empire despite wartime hardships increasingly troubling for the Taiwanese people in their everyday experiences. Generally, Japanese cultural strategies were more effective for Taiwanese born in the last three decades of Japanese rule. However, Japan could not completely harness Taiwanese emotions. Apart from patriotism, sources generated by Taiwanese people such as diaries and postwar oral histories demonstrate ambivalence, apathy, avoidance and pretense.

This dissertation chronologically covers the five decades of Japanese rule on Taiwan through three sets of interrelated themes. The first is the paradigm shift in Japanese cultural policy from colonial expediency to wartime necessity. The second is the dialectical relationship between the "cultural" and the "martial," exemplified by the power of education to effect mobilization. The third consists of the changing ideals and meanings of masculinity and femininity. This dissertation's focus on the emotional dimension of colonialism affirms individual experiences and agency, sees institutional power as contingent, and contributes to the study of Taiwanese and Japanese history, colonialism, and identity formation.

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