Ainu Identity and the Early Modern State

David L. Howell

in Geographies of Identity in Nineteenth-Century Japan

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2005 | ISBN: 9780520240858
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520930872 | DOI:
Ainu Identity and the Early Modern State

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This chapter discusses how long-standing economic relations on Japan's northern frontier were ritualized to secure Matsumae's place in the early modern polity, and how the combination of economic engagement and ritual determined the Ainu's position as barbarians within the status system. The Ainu's growing involvement in the commercial fishing economy was critical, for it decisively secured the ability of the Matsumae domain to institutionalize the Ainu's position as barbarians in the geography of civilization. The uimam and umsa rituals were effective because they fit both Ainu and Japanese expectations of the proper relationship between the two peoples. As the status system provided a framework to articulate identities, there could not be a social space defined by in-betweenness.

Keywords: Ainu; Japan; Matsumae; modern polity; civilization; uimam; umsa; identities

Chapter.  8563 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Asian History

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