Trans-Pacific Racisms Redux: Views from 2014
CJRC Lecture Series
Lecture by Prof. Yukiko Koshiro, Professor of International Relations at Nihon University (Japan).
In the 1990s when the trade wars erupted between the U.S. and Japan, the rhetoric of the yellow-versus-white peril surfaced in their confrontation and the world realized that their mutual racism did not simply disappear with Japan’s defeat in the Pacific War and the success of the U.S. occupation of Japan. Rather, their postwar collaboration was built on a shared racist view of the world, in which both nations assumed a duty to lead the “inferior non-West” nations, a concept in which Japan was an “honorary Western nation” of Asia. In the Cold War diplomacy, the reality of Japanese submission to the “white conquerors” was never in question. The color barrier in their people-to-people interactions turned into something of a taboo beneath the smooth postwar cooperation between the two nations.
Although the bitter confrontation in the 1990s brought to light such strong substratum of racist thinking in their relations, no serious U.S.-Japanese discourse on race has yet occurred. In the contemporary complexity of racial reality in the world, the white-versus-yellow color scheme seems too archaic. American society has become multiracial and can no longer consider itself a white man’s nation. As the non-Western world continues its vigorous modernization (Westernization), Japan’s dualistic identity is no longer unique. Will the trans-Pacific racism that has legitimized the U.S.-Japan alliance after World War II finally come to an end? In this talk, Koshiro examines both societies’ changing attitudes toward mutual issues such as immigration and miscegenation and discusses whether the two nations are now ready for building an equal partnership against the backdrop of a radically changing East Asia.
Yukiko Koshiro is Professor of History at Nihon University College of International Relations, Japan. She has published works on reinterpretations of modern Japan’s link with the world, with a major focus on the roles of race, culture and ideology. Her first book, Trans-Pacific Racisms and the U.S. Occupation of Japan (Columbia University Press, 1999), received the 2001 Masayoshi Ohira Memorial Award. Other works on race and racism include: "Internationalizing Race- A Lesson of Bi-Racial Children in the U.S. Occupation of Japan," Amerikastudien (Journal of the German Association of American Studies), vol.48, no.1, 2003; "Beyond an Alliance of Color: African American impact on Modern Japan," positions: east asian cultures critique, vol.11, no.1, 2003; and "East Asia's 'Melting Pot’: Reevaluating Race Relations in Japan's Colonial Empire," in Rotem Kowner and Walter Demel, eds., Race and Racism in Modern East Asia: Western and Eastern Constructions (Brill, 2012). Her latest book Imperial Eclipse: Japan’s Strategic Thinking about Continental Asia before August 1945 (Cornell University Press, 2013) also sheds light on the racial and cultural dimensions of Japan’s World War II vis-à-vis Russia, China and Korea.