115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Writing Out Mobility: Travel and Displacement Under Japanese Imperialism

Satoko Kakihara, California State University, Fullerton

This paper juxtaposes the travelogue titled Travels in Manchuria and Mongolia (1929) by Japanese writer Yosano Akiko (1878–1942) and the novel Market Street (1936) by Manchurian writer Xiao Hong (1911–42), which present a seesaw of structural privilege and oppression. It argues that sociopolitical belonging is constructed by the degree of mobility that a subject enjoys, based on her positionality within various structures. 

Proposal: 

The relational construction of race has been discussed often for colonial and imperial contexts—for example, under Japanese imperialism, one constructs a Japanese identity in relation to the identity of a racialized colonial Other. Yet the construction of gender across racial lines in such a context is less frequently discussed, creating room to analyze such an intersectionality of gender and racial identities.

This paper offers such an analysis by examining the ability of subjects to travel through and move within a geopolitical context. Specifically, the paper juxtaposes the travelogue titled Travels in Manchuria and Mongolia (1929) by Japanese writer Yosano Akiko (1878–1942) and the novel Market Street (1936) by Manchurian writer Xiao Hong (1911–42), while also referencing their other works and personal histories. The women’s writings present a seesaw of structural privilege and oppression: the ability to move about freely as a traveler through Manchuria for someone like Yosano Akiko is made possible by the entrapment and displacement within a homeland experienced by someone like Xiao Hong, who writes with the hope of building a home elsewhere. The paper argues that sociopolitical belonging is constructed by the degree of mobility that a subject enjoys, based on her positionality within various structures. What is at stake in this paper is thus an interrogation of the relationship between mobility and citizenship—a concept with perceived roots in Western (i.e., Greek and Roman) philosophies, though one with close ties to the concept of imperialized subjectification. In reading texts written by two women writers in Manchuria before and during the Japanese occupation of Manchukuo (from 1932 to 1945), the paper also places in conversation studies of imperialism and feminism with diaspora studies that deal with displacement and belonging. The goal of the paper is to expand conversations on the construction of gender and racial hierarchies in relation to the establishment of geopolitical boundaries under imperial contexts.