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"Racing for Empire" in Colonial Taiwan: Mobilizing Indigenous Peoples for War, 1895–1945

Mon, June 22, 4:05 to 6:00pm, South Building, Floor: 9th Floor, S901


Scholars have acknowledged that Korean, Japanese-American, and Taiwan Indigenous soldiers fought in World War II for regimes that grudgingly acknowledged their humanity. In contrast, the Indigenous Peoples who fought on the Japanese side during the "guardline period" (1903–1915) are absent from scholarship on Japanese empire in Taiwan. This paper will examine the case of the so-called "Kusshaku-ban." It will look at their motivations for working with the Japanese police to extend a network of militarized installations in the early 1900s. In Race for Empire, Takashi Fujitani argues that the heightened biopolitical imperatives of Japanese empire, in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor, pushed Japanese military leaders to redefine Koreans as potential naichijin by allowing them to serve in the Emperor's armed forces. Leo Ching's Becoming Japanese presaged Fujitani by arguing that Taiwan Indigenous Peoples were "allowed" to become soldiers at a similar time for the same reason. In each case, the demands of "national emergency" loosened Japan's racial ideologies of superiority and exclusivity to permit formerly despised races to identify themselves as members of the "family state." This paper investigates the 1903–1905 case of Kusshaku in Taiwan to ask how the interplay of biopolitics, race, and empire during the Russo-Japanese War compares with the dynamics studied by Fujitani and Ching for the 1940s. Through this comparison, it asks if the history of race itself—and not just the national emergency—had an impact on the war mobilization policies of the 1930s.