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  • Speaking Japanese

    Kate McDonald

    Chapter from the book: McDonald, K. 2017. Placing Empire: Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan.


    The rise of the geography of cultural pluralism affected the way that imperial travelers' understood their relationship to the colonized subjects who they encountered in their travels. Focusing on travelers' reports of Japanese-language conversations with colonized subjects, the chapter argues that Japanese-language speech became the basis for new practices of inclusion and exclusion that operated in loose parallel with the “local color” vision of the nation and empire as a space of complementary diversity. As they did with representations of colonized laborers, imperial travelers agreed that certain peoples were naturally suited to certain languages and registers, and only some could use the Japanese language to transcend their location of origin, or place. Yet unlike labor, imperial travelers did not treat language as another example of the logic of mutual exchange and benefit. Rather, they interpreted linguistic variation as a sign of the intractability of ethnic difference within the imperial nation.

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    McDonald, K. 2017. Speaking Japanese. In: McDonald, K, Placing Empire. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.34.f

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    Published on Aug. 1, 2017


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