hiroko matsuda on okinawan migrants in colonial taiwan


Hiroko Matsuda, ‘Becoming Japanese in the Colony: Okinawan Migrants in Colonial Taiwan’, Cultural Studies (advanced, July 2012).

This article examines how the dichotomy of the colonizer/colonized was elastic, but sustained by people’s everyday existence in the Japanese colony by examining experiences of Okinawan migrants in colonial Taiwan. While Taiwanese struggled to become ‘Japanese’ by mastering Japanese language and practicing Japanese customs in their daily lives, Japanese migrants in Taiwan also tried to become ‘Japanese’ in distinguishing themselves from the colonized subjects. Although Okinawan people were legally categorized into ‘Japanese’ and enjoyed some privileges such as a colonial bonus for public officials, ‘Okinawans’ were seen as the ‘other Japanese’, and were likely to be marginalized in the Japanese community. Thus, the micro-politics of ‘becoming Japanese’ and ‘distinguishing from Taiwanese’ was critical to their everyday lives. On the basis of my own oral interview records of the former migrants from the Yaeyama Islands, which sent a number of migrants to Taiwan in the 1920s and the 1930s, this article examines why they migrated to colonial Taiwan, and in what way they struggled to become the ‘colonizer’ in their daily lives. This article demonstrates colonial modernity matters not only to those who were ‘colonized’ in the Japanese empire, but also to the Japanese colonizer. Indeed, colonial modernity matters on the point that the boundary between the ‘colonizer/colonized’ was produced and re-produced at different political fields in the empire.

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