Ethnography as Self-Reflection

E. Taylor Atkins

in Primitive Selves

Published by University of California Press

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780520266735
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520947689 | DOI:
Ethnography as Self-Reflection

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This chapter teases out the multiple, sometimes contradictory, messages in Japanese ethnographic accounts and images of colonial Korea to assess their practical and ideological value to the imperial project. It argues that colonial anthropology in Korea was characterized by two conflicting tendencies, both of which served official colonial objectives only obliquely: ethnographic accounts and images maximized Korean difference to enhance the grandeur of the Japanese empire, dramatize the urgent necessity of Japan's civilizing influence, and justify the purportedly altruistic intrusion on Korean sovereignty. But often these descriptions and images simultaneously minimized Korean difference in accordance with the dictates of the ideology of common ancestry (nissen dō soron), so as to make the annexation appear as a smooth integration of backward cousins into the Japanese family-state, and to enable a rediscovery of Japanese origins that enhanced the ongoing efforts to promote national cultural identity within the metropole.

Keywords: Japanese ethnographic accounts; colonial Korea; imperial project; colonial anthropology; Japanese empire

Chapter.  17468 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Asian History

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