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Imperial Genus

Imperial Genus: The Formation and Limits of the Human in Modern Korea and Japan OPEN ACCESS

Travis Workman
Copyright Date: 2016
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    Imperial Genus
    Book Description:

    Imperial Genusbegins with the turn to world culture and ideas of the generally human in Japan's cultural policy in Korea in 1919. How were concepts of the human's genus-being operative in the discourses of the Japanese empire? How did they inform the imagination and representation of modernity in colonial Korea? Travis Workman delves into these questions through texts in philosophy, literature, and social science.Imperial Genusfocuses on how notions of human generality mediated uncertainty between the transcendental and the empirical, the universal and the particular, and empire and colony. It shows how cosmopolitan cultural principles, the proletarian arts, and Pan-Asian imperial nationalism converged with practices of colonial governmentality. It is a genealogy of the various articulations of the human's genus-being within modern humanist thinking in East Asia, as well as an exploration of the limits of the human as both concept and historical figure.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-96419-8
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. 1-25)

    In an essay from 1920 titled “On the Notion of ‘Japanese,’” published as part ofCulturalism and Social Problems, the philosopher Kuwaki Gen’yoku discusses his attendance at a Berlin production of Giacomo Puccini’sMadame Butterflyduring his time as a student in Germany. He recounts how reluctant he was to attend the opera, because he could not bear to watch the various historical and cultural inaccuracies in this kind of Orientalist production:

    Once in Berlin I saw and heard the operaMadame Butterfly. At that time I was going to plays, opera, and musical theater quite often, but I did...

  2. (pp. 26-61)

    In March 1919, there were nationwide protests in colonial Korea against Japanese imperialism, leading up to the proclamation of a declaration of independence by leading intellectuals. Following the March First Movement, the governor-general of Korea shifted its policy from military policy to cultural policy. Cultural policy was not simply a euphemism for colonial exploitation, but a set of policies and discourses based on particular ideas of culture. At the same time as cultural policy was instituted in Korea, culturalism became a dominant intellectual orientation in Japan proper and in the colonies. As culturalism became the dominant intellectual orientation and cultural...

  3. (pp. 62-97)

    In Yi Kwang-su’s early stories, such as “Maybe Love” (1909) and “Yun Kwang-ho” (1918), he portrays the internal emptiness and coldness of his young protagonists.¹ The eponymous protagonist Kwang-ho receives a scholarship to study in Japan, but feels isolated, disconnected, and alone. Even as he is externally very successful as an economics student at K University (Keio), Yi compares his interiority to an icy cave, to a void deepening inside of him. His family and friends warn him not to work too hard, but he remains driven to exhaust himself in his studies. The gap between his external successes and...

  4. (pp. 98-133)

    In criticizing the “illusion of eternity” in the bourgeois idea of subject formation, orBildung, Aono Suekichi drew a line in the sand between the individualistic, transtemporal view of arts and literature and a politically and historically engaged arts and literature. However, like so many proletarian arts critics, he did not reject the terms of bourgeois humanism, but rather appropriated themes of culture, spirit, and humanity to give a foundation to an oppositional and collective subject in world history, the proletariat. Culturalism spoke of culture in terms of moral progress, individual achievement, and each nation’s place in universal history. Aono’s...

  5. (pp. 134-166)

    In 1924, a year after the Kanto earthquake and the subsequent racist attacks against Korean and Chinese minorities in Japan proper, Yoshino Sakuzō began publishing the works of the Meiji Culture Research Group, celebrating the cultural legacy of Meiji and bemoaning the new complexities of ethnic and class politics.¹ Cultural policy was in full swing in Korea, and Sōda Kiichirō was continuing to formalize the philosophy of culturalism. In the same year, Etsuzandō publishedThe View of Life of Death Row Inmatesby Nakanishi Inosuke, a leftist writer from Japan who spent a good deal of time in Korea and...

  6. (pp. 167-212)

    In an essay from 1943, “On the Characteristics and Direction of Korean Literature,” An Ham-kwang, a Korean proletarian literature critic who became a supporter of imperial Japan and then a prominent South Korean critic, wrote, “History is not something established by nature or the human, nor by reason or through a consciousness of the forces of production; it is, in actuality, something created and preserved by the state.”¹ In 1931, An was critical of “metaphysical” representations of the countryside, particularly in fascist literature.² However, in promoting the Japanese state’s intervention into capitalist crisis, he ended up advocating a politics that...

  7. (pp. 213-248)

    Yi Sang’s poem “The Infinite Hexagon of Architecture,” published in 1932, begins with a philosophical reflection on post-Euclidean geometry and twentiethcentury visuality, particularly in poetry after the advent of cinema: “A square inside a square inside a square inside a square inside a square / A square circle of a square circle of a square circle. A person sees through the scent of soap from a vein where soap passes. The Earth imitates a globe imitates the Earth.”¹ The image expresses amise en abyme—two mirrors are facing each other, framing smaller and smaller frames of infinitesimal sizes, infinitely....