Modernity and Ethnicity

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:
Modernity and Ethnicity

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The linking of identity with territoriality was not shared by the states with which nineteenth-century Japan competed, particularly Russia and China. Civilization could be imposed unilaterally on the Ainu population as a whole. The linguistic diversity of the archipelago is considered. A number of critical differences distinguished the Ainu and outcastes during the Tokugawa period. The same process of selective ethnicization occurred on the Ryukyu Islands. The modern Japanese state appropriated Japanese identity by tying modernity to civilization. Status and civilization combined to lay the groundwork for a conception of a unitary ethnicity subsumed within national identity—not in its contemporary guise, of course, but rather in a form that antedated the emergence of the modern nation-state. If modern ethnicity is a construct, it follows that early modern society provided the raw materials from which it was fashioned.

Keywords: modernity; modern ethnicity; Tokugawa; Ainu; national identity; status; civilization

Chapter.  3335 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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