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Thanatopolitics in the Making of Japan’s Hokkaido: Settler Colonialism and Primitive Accumulation

Katsuya Hirano
Critical Historical Studies
Vol. 2, No. 2 (September 2015), pp. 191-218
DOI: 10.1086/683094
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/683094
Page Count: 28
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Thanatopolitics in the Making of Japan’s Hokkaido: Settler Colonialism and Primitive Accumulation
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Abstract

AbstractThis article provides an overview of late nineteenth-century Japanese settler colonialism in Hokkaido, a land long inhabited by indigenous people, the Ainu, with a particular theoretical question in mind: What was the precise relationship between the settler colonization of Hokkaido and the Japanese government’s drive for primitive accumulation of capital? This question deepens our understanding of the intrinsic relation between the formation of a capitalist nation-state and that of its colony, a relation through which indigenous people such as the Ainu lost their means of sustenance—the land—and were eventually driven nearly to extinction. It also compels us to rethink the way historians and social theorists, especially those informed by Marxian approaches, have discussed the relation between settler colonialism and primitive accumulation. The article suggests that the Marxian analysis of colonialism seriously consider politics of death, or thanatopolitics, which constitutes the matrix of settler colonization, as an integral component of capitalist formation.

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