vol 10 | winter 2014

Page 1

orientations the undergraduate journal from the department of east asian studies 2013 2014

orientations the undergraduate journal from the department of east asian studies 2013 2014



DEMONS OF MODERNITY Relations of State Power to Japanese Folk Belief and Computer Daemon Pragrams Juliette Allen 9 NO MORE OF THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM Depicting Ruins and Deymythologizing ‘Orientalism’ in Chinese Contemporary Art Cynthia Or 15 BENEATH THE WRAPPINGS OF FOOTBINDING Implications of Footbinding in Late Imperial China Aliénor Lemieux-Cumberlege 22 BALLOTS AND BULLETS Effects of Regime Change and Consolidation on North-South Relations on the Korean Peninsula Christopher Villegas-Cho 27 FROM EMPIRE TO STATE Japan and Taiwan’s Struggles in Building Coherent Nation-States Between 1945 to 1960 Claire Launay 32 VISUAL ESSAY: NOTES ON THE GUANGXI PROVINCE Elia Sommerlad 38 CAPITALISM AND POPULAR RELIGION IN CONTEMPORARY JAPAN Ben Patrick Stidworthy 41 DISABILITY AND POLICE ORDER IN HARA KAZUO’S SAYONARA CP Benjamin Poirier 45


DEMONS OF MODERNITY Relations of State Power to Japanese Folk Belief and Computer Daemon Pragrams JULIETTE ALLEN


rom the mountain tengu demons of 1860 Japan to the contemporary software daemons of our computer operating systems, state power has engaged with supernatural forces to assert its control. During the “Enlightened Rule” of the Meiji regime, the state incorporated folk beliefs in demons, into an institutionalized regulation of the body. Western medicine was cast as an empirical and universal method of healing and stood in opposition to popular forms of medicinal knowledge. The holders of this knowledge, who included village shamans, were dismissed as mad, and folk knowledge was shaped as a monster in itself, used to scare the people into subjugation to institutionalized medicine. Today, the real-time immediacy of computer interfaces and software give users an impression of complete control. Yet, interfaces run in parallel with background process computer programs known as daemons. These programs are not under control of users, yet they accomplish most of the labor necessary for the users’ actions to have visible effects. Here, power attempts to give users the illusion of mastery over the demons and the machine, and for obvious reasons, the illusion of control limits individuals’ commitment to challenging the technology, or the ideologies inherent in it. In both cases, power imposes a leap of faith, a commitment to belief respectively in Western institutionalized medicine or in one’s own mastery over the computer. More broadly this essay is about the power that is invested in the individual human body by governments. Control operates direct-

ly on bodies in the case of the institutionalization of medicine in Meiji Japan by restricting folk agency over their own healing and putting it in the hands of few powerful men. It operates through contemporary technology by distracting individuals from their own political powerlessness, and from the potential of revolting against this power. As I explore the theme of state control of the body through the two examples of demons as vessels of power, I will refer to multiple texts. Firstly, the paper will discuss the ideas of Michel Foucault on biopolitics from the transcription of a lecture he gave in 1976. Secondarily it will look at two essays, one by Gerald Figal entitled “Modern Science and the Folk”, and the other by Wendy Chun called “Daemonic Interfaces, Empowering Obfuscations”. These two texts address the place of demons respectively in the modernization of medicine in Japan, and in our relation to computer technology. Finally, we will briefly look at Jodi Dean’s essay “Technology: the Promises of Communicative Capitalism.” In his lecture delivered on 17 March 1776 at the Collège de France entitled “Society Must be Defended,” Foucault addresses the birth of what he calls biopower, which can be understood as the array of techniques used by modern nation states to control populations through the subjugation of bodies. He historicizes biopower’s conditions of emergence within shifting methods of state control. He begins by describing the traditional monarch’s power over life and death: during the seven-


teenth century and before, the sovereign was seen as an embodiment of the divine, and had the authority to sentence subjects to death. But during the course of the eighteenth century, the power to “take life, let live”, shifted to a state power to “make live, let die.”1 Instead of a direct power to kill, the state sustained (certain forms of ) life. This disciplinary power operated through various mechanisms of control to increase the capitalist productive force of individuals. It centered on individual bodies which were isolated from each other, serialized, and surveyed through hierarchies in the workplace for example. It is indeed useful to observe the unfolding of disciplinary power through a focus on the workplace. There, bodies are made useful and docile through orders, instructions and punishment such as the possibility of termination. But in the second half of the eighteenth century, and during the nineteenth century, an interesting phenomenon of regulatory control integrated itself to the existing disciplinary power. Rather than being centered on the individual body, state control considers more broadly the regulation of ‘population’. It operates on a mass level, on the long term. The control of population operates through the positive sustaining of certain forms of life: we see the establishment of rational mechanisms like social insurance, welfare, safety measures as well as “forecasts, statistical estimates and overall measures.”2 This is one example of biopower. Regulation does not only operate through institutions, it is sometimes much more diffused. An interesting example which Foucault explores in an interview called “Body/Power,” is the ideological exploitation of eroticization. Sexuality is not controlled by repression but by stimulation, from pornography to advertisements for sun tan products. He shows that nudity and intimacy become less taboo, but are portrayed as belonging to normative white bodies: “get undressed – but be slim, good looking, tanned!”3 Repression of bodies is realized through the stimulation of some bodies over others. Power is therefore present in how certain life is sustained, and what kind of life is sustained. Biopower is yet best exemplified in cases


where power controls population in the name of security. Foucault explains that “this [biopower] is a technology which aims to establish a sort of homeostasis, not by training individuals but by achieving an overall equilibrium that protects the security of the whole from internal dangers.”4 In this sense, discipline and regulation work together to produce self-control in the individual. In order to feel safe, to feel part of society, and to offer security to future generations, individuals comply to the power invested in their bodies. It is in this environment that we assist to the “development of a medicine whose main function will now be public hygiene, with institutions to coordinate medical care, centralize information, and normalize knowledge.”5 While Foucault is founding his argument on post-industrial revolution European history, we can extend his critique of power through discipline and regulation to Japan during the Meiji regime. In his essay “Modern Science and the Folk,” Gerald Figal describes the process of national modernization undertook by the Meiji regime in the late nineteenth century. The body became a “public battlefield in which the state, as guarantor of public security and well-being, wages war with the new weapon that Western medicine represented.”6 More than it served to cure bodies, the introduction of Western medicine into Japan was valuable to the Meiji state in ideologically managing bodies. Or, rather, it was through the medical attention to bodies that the state could ground its power. In addition to the physical grasp medical institutions had over population, power was created through the monopoly of medical knowledge and the masculinization of the power to heal. Let us first address the monopoly. As hinted to earlier in the essay, new clinics were created and presented as safe scientific and modern centers of medicine. Figal explains that “the private practices of local caretakers of the folk’s health – faith healers, shamans, exorcists, medicine peddlers – could no longer be allowed the knowledge to cure the ailments of the individuals who relied on them because they constituted a “‘feudalistic’ obstacle and threat to the formation of a national body.”7 The institutionalization of education and medicine was presented as a unifying process which

would transform Japan from a land divided by local knowledge to a one with a homogenous national body. Local healers were presented as threats to this transformation. In fact they rather posed a menace to the omnipotence of the state in the production of patriotic and docile bodies that could be easily managed. Thus, power invested itself in stripping local healers of their authority, casting them as fake and dangerous. Yet, rather than a total suppression of folk knowledge, “it was this very maintenance of folk knowledge as meishin and ‘enemy’ that was vital for the formation and administration (as a medicine is administered) of institutional knowledge.”8 This works in a similar way in Foucault’s example of power’s regulation of bodies not by the repression of sexuality but by its stimulation towards privileged bodies. Rather than suppressing the insuppressible, its momentum is harnessed and re-appropriated by power. The empirical knowledge of Western science was reserved to the few male doctors who worked in the institutions after having received the education that separated them from the rest of the population. Figal explains that “the ‘ignorant folk’ were subsequently made doubly ignorant: not only was the knowledge by which they conducted all aspects of their lives wrong, the new, ‘correct’ knowledge was far too specialized for them to possess directly and comprehensively.”9 A second aspect of the institutionalization of medicine during the Meiji regime was the masculinization of the cures to ailments. Figal uses the example of the “fox possession” in order to illustrate the patriarchal essence of the medical profession. The pathology was identified as a mental state in which individuals believed they had turned into a fox. The fact that institutionalized medicine focused on the disease as one contracted by women more than men (even though it wasn’t proven to be particularly prone to their sex) echoes the Western association of hysteria to women. Indeed, in Europe, Freudian psychiatry metaphorically penetrated and managed the female body and sexuality. The field was male-dominated, and by diagnosing non-normative behaviors as pathologies, these men constructed their power over the female bodies they were analyzing.

In addition to feminizing the illness, Japanese doctors took away the power of female shamans who were capable of healing it. The village shaman was an extremely important folk figure who held power in medicine, education, belief and was usually a woman. Figal explains that “one way to undermine the authority of the shaman was to take away the need for her services. Another was to reinscribe her power to cure behavioral disorders as a disorder itself needing special treatment.”10 Ironically, whereas shamans were able to cure fox-possession, Japanese psychiatry protected the ‘health of the nation’ by locking patients away in asylums without treating them. It is interesting that both the folk and the administrative control referred to the demons, and expressed themselves through considerations of the supernatural. Figal explains that both articulated “a network of signs - magical, grotesque, religious – indexed to a world beyond the visible realm of the ordinary.”11 The political struggle of power was projected onto a cosmological battle between demons. The battleground was the body, the demons were folk monsters and the belief itself in monsters. The contemporary counterpart of folk monster is computer demons that run our computers without our command. Users’ control over their computer is limited by lack of understanding of how the device works beyond the surface of the interface, and power is placed in the hands of a few experts. The programs created by these experts to run without users’ control are similar to the supernatural forces appropriated by the Meiji state: invisible, inhuman, and mystifying. The Linux Information Project website offers a definition of these computing daemon, explaining that “a daemon is a type of program. . .that runs unobtrusively in the background, rather than under the direct control of a user, waiting to be activated by the occurrence [sic] of a specific event or condition.”12 Therefore they are invisible, untouchable, and impossible to comprehend since they effectuate the labor that no organic mind could. They are not under control of the user’s actions, yet the user gets results from her commands through the interface. These clicks, trigger secondary commands from the program to the daemons,


which perpetuates a chain of reactions from the ‘background’ workers. Indeed, the website continues:

“it is not necessary that the perpetrator of the action or condition be aware that a daemon is listening, although programs frequently will perform an action only because they are aware that they will implicitly arouse a daemon.”13 There is a strong personification of such a program as alive, and independently (secretly) responding to users, which is highlighted by the lexical field of the senses (“listening,” “arouse”). In her chapter “Daemonic Interfaces, Empowering Obfuscations,” Wendy Chun explains that “interactive operating systems such as UNIX, transform the computer from a machine run by human operators in batch mode to “alive” personal machines, which respond to the user’s commands.”14 While it will not be possible to address the entirety of Chun’s rich article, we will focus on the invisibility of demons and software as well as the illusion of user mastery that it generates. In many ways, the system of software-daemon-program-interface is both a manifestation and a representation of neoliberalism. Firstly, the interface imitates the classic white collar office job and reinforces the signs and codes of capitalism. Secondly, its vastness is as incomprehensible as that of neo-liberal ideology. Thirdly, the invisibility of the labor that allows users to enjoy the illusion of direct causality demands belief – an act of faith, in a similar way to neoliberalism. Computers allow individuals to autonomously manipulate, control, and organize information through inviting interfaces. Generally, interfaces present desktops that work within the metaphor of an office space: they can be individualized and personalized – essentially made to fit each individual in order to increase their productivity. The use of folders, files, trash bins, bookmarks naturalize the capitalist work space as one of endless possi-


bility, within the familiar objective of productivity. Neoliberalism is characterized by the omnipresence of the economic market in all aspects of life. By grounding the computer as a workspace, individual economic success is confounded with freedom. Furthermore, by interacting with an interface that encourages the user to forget the materiality of the computer as well as the background programs that run it, individuals are once again encouraged to ignore the labor that ensures their consumption. A Marxist analysis would indeed find similarities in this with the mechanisms that mystify the labor-time and human work put into production of a capitalist system. The bourgeois tendency to fetishize commodities and ignore the hierarchies of labor that oppress workers is similar to the dismissal of the invisible programs of the computer. While the oppression of a working class has completely different social consequences from the ignoring of technological networks, we can still recognize that power often benefits from dissimulating the labor necessary to the creation of capitalist products. The mystification of the invisible programs which “make our computers work,” along with empowering user-friendly “officespace” interfaces, participate in the illusion of individual sovereignty over the machine. Yet Chun would argue that such feeling of mastery is necessarily accompanied by ignorance of the totality. The dream of individual control hides a powerlessness, or “an erasure of the computer’s machinations and of the history of interactive operating systems as supplementing - that is, supplanting – human intelligence.”15 While I would disagree with Wendy Chun that technology can replace human intelligence, it is important to recognize that users accept a dangerous subjugation to the demons. As users, we trust and lend our belief to the technological, which (because of its incomprehensibility), is equated to the supernatural. This leap of faith in the demons by forgetting the daemons is an extremely interesting phenomenon. But how is the illusion of mastery concretely useful to power? Let us observe the complexity of expressing a political engagement on the internet that has impact on real life. Jodi Dean, in her ar-

ticle “Technology: the Promises of Communicative Capitalism” argues that it is impossible. She expresses that the blogging world could foster the most virulent and critical attacks to power, but these voices would never reach politicians in a way that would impact their rule. She explains that in fact “networked communication and information technologies are exquisite media for capturing and reformatting political energies. They turn efforts at political engagement into contributions to the circulation of content, reinforcing the hold of neoliberalism’s technological infrastructure.”16 Therefore instead of standing out as messages, they are made to be simple additions of data to the already abundant flow of subjective views. The paradox is that bloggers are convinced, according to Dean, of their own power to affect an audience. Their illusion of agency limits to them to the world of virtual discourse without a material mobilization of the body to materially affect the world. Dean also addresses a different form of internet-based political engagement exemplified by the MoveOn.com movement. The website circulates petitions, articles, and organizes onetime events such as sit-ins or manifestations. Yet, none of these sustain human momentum in a long-term engaging way. It “leaves behind the time-consuming, incremental, and risky efforts of politics.”17 Dean explains that MoveOn.com engagement allows “busy people [to] think they are active – the technology will act for them, alleviating their guilt while assuring them that nothing will change too much.”18 As it emphasizes its non-affiliation to any ideology or party, it avoids division. Yet the illusion of being heard, the illusion of having an impact distracts most bloggers and internetbased activists from posing concrete physical threats to capitalist power. Therefore, demonic forces have been utilized by the state in different ways to maintain power. In the Meiji regime it was by reincorporating belief in monsters into an institutionalized regulation of the body, through portraying folk superstition as a monster in itself. The state assured power over the body through the monopoly of medical knowledge and the masculinization of healing, in addition to the obvious biological power of life and death over

patients. Power is also invested in the daemons of contemporary computer interfaces. In this case, power attempts to give users the illusion of mastery over the demons and the machines. This illusion of mastery extends itself to political engagement through the internet which reserves individuals from physically mobilizing themselves for change. Furthermore, the control of technology is just one aspect of control of the body: ultimately all forms of control affect the materiality of our corporeal selves. By condemning popular voices to an infinite stream of data, state power can continue to oppress the bodies of workers, of women, of minorities and marginal groups, as much as the Meiji regime oppressed the bodies of the folk. Because state power operates in material ways, we should go beyond discursive responses and embody our resistance in collective and direct actions in order to redefine our relation to the demons.




1. Michel Foucault, “Chapter 11,” Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976, trans. David Macey, eds. Mauro Bertani and Alessandro Fontana (New York: Picador, 2003), 240, 241. 2. Ibid., 246. 3. Michel Foucault, “Body/Power,” Power/ Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980), 57 4. Michel Foucault, “Chapter 11,” Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976, trans. David Macey, eds. Mauro Bertani and Alessandro Fontana (New York: Picador, 2003), 249. 5. Ibid., 246. 6. Geral Figal, “Modern Science and the Folk,” Civilization and Monsters: Spirits of Modernity in Meiji Japan (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999), 96. 7. Ibid. 8. Ibid., 95 - 96. 9. Ibid., 103. 10. Ibid., 97. 11. Ibid., 78. 12. Linux Information Project. “Daemon Definition,” <http://www.linfo.org/> (16 April 2013). 13. Ibid. 14. Wendy Chun, “Daemonic Interfaces, Empowering Obfuscations,” Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (Cambridge: MIP Press, 2011), 98. 15. Ibid., 59. 16. Jodi Dean, “Technology: The Promises of Communicative Capitalism,” Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009), 32. 17. Ibid., 47. 18. Ibid.

­“Daemon Definition.” Linux Information Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. Geral Figal, “Modern Science and the Folk,” Civilization and Monsters: Spirits of Modernity in Meiji Japan (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999). Jodi Dean, “Technology: The Promises of Communicative Capitalism,” Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009). Michel Foucault, Chapter 11, Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975-1976, trans. David Macey, eds. Mauro Bertani and Alessandro Fontana (New York: Picador, 2003). Michel Foucault. “Body/Power,” 1975. Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977. New York: Pantheon Books, 1980. Wendy Chun, “Daemonic Interfaces, Empowering Obfuscations” in Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (Cambridge: MIP Press, 2011).


NO MORE OF THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM Depicting Ruins and Demythologizing ‘Orientalism’ in Chinese Contemporary Art CYNTHIA OR

How much of the Heavenly Kingdom remains?” complained a writer reviewing the Silent Energy exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford in October 1993. The writer, in an attempt to locate an essential ‘Chineseness’, critiqued the exhibition of Chinese contemporary art for being a mere imitation of Western art.1 In the history of Western receptions of Chinese art, the aesthetic pleasure of Chinese art was legitimized by its exoticness; in other words, only traditional forms of ink-wash or calligraphy were appreciated and accepted as ‘authentic’.2 Written within the historical ideology of the West is a perception of non-Westerners as the ‘Other’, a strategy of viewership that reduces the value of non-Western artwork to its mysterious ‘exoticness’ or picturesque ‘authenticity’.3 This is also known as Orientalism, the deliberate “highlighting [of ] the differences between the familiar (West) and the strange (East ),” which maintains the western narrative of Chinese history and art while simultaneously negating the Chinese perspective.4 The lack of ‘otherness’ that the critic at the Silent Energy exhibition noted, is demonstrative of a new form of internationalism within Chinese contemporary art that involves “never refusing international exchanges and mutual influences”.5 This idea poses a threat to the concept of Orientalism because characteristics of Western art are visibly appropriated into Chinese art, challenging the East (as strange) versus West (as familiar) dichotomy; the strange East is now articulated with a familiar West making it no longer

‘strange’.6 Today, China in the West is still often reduced to three concepts: The Great Wall, Mao, and collectivism.7 When speaking of Chinese contemporary art, the acknowledgement and understanding of Chinese perspectives of their own history and art is essential in order to transcend the persistence of Orientalism in the West. Alois Reigl, one of the pioneers of Western art history, believed in a Kunstwollen or “way of seeing the world” that differed from one time period to the next.8 He explains:

“Kunstwollen regulates the relationship between man and object as we perceive them with our senses […] yet man is not just a being perceiving exclusively with his sense (passive), but also a longing (active) being. Consequently, man wants to interpret the world as it can most easily be done in accordance with his inner drive (which may change with nation, location and time). The character of this Wollen may be termed the conception of the world at a given time.”9 He distinguishes between flat, picto-


rial Egyptian art and the three-dimensional, mathematical perspective used during the Renaissance, crediting these variants to the different Kunstwollen or “ways of seeing the world” during each point in history. This paper will investigate the treatment of Oriental ruins within artwork and how they are revealing of the differing aesthetic ways of seeing between China and the West that are embedded in their distinct histories and ideologies. Ruins are remnants of the past that puncture into the present which in China, have always been seen as inauspicious and even dangerous.10 The treatment of ruins within artwork, be it preservation or abandonment, is reflective of a culture’s relationship with a present, past or ‘other’ culture. An example of how ruins reflect the West’s relationship with an “Other” culture is evident in Jean-Léon Gérôme’s paintings of the ‘Orient,’ particularly his Snake Charmer from the late 1860’s that depict poorly maintained tiles in the Oriental landscape. The depiction of Oriental architecture moralisée implicates an abandonment of the ‘Other’s’ own cultural treasures, as a result of laziness, childishness and barbarism.11 Oriental ruins depicted in western paintings perpetuate this myth of barbarism, primitivism, and inferiority of the ‘Other’ culture. Therefore, this essay will debase this myth by investigating ruins represented by Chinese contemporary artists such as Zhan Wang, Rong Rong and Xu Jiang to give a thoughtful – though never universal – Chinese perspectives. This apprehension of the Chinese Kunstwollen, or “way of seeing”, will provide insight into the artworks of these contemporary Chinese artists by offering a particular alternative Chinese perspective, denied by the persisting Western concept of Orientalism. The contemporary connotation attributed to depictions of ruins refers to the demolition of areas in Beijing and Shanghai. Housing that had been around for nearly two thousand years are being destroyed at what may be “the most radical restructuring of urban space on earth”.12 Zhan Wang, a native Beijing artist enacted a performance peace called, Ruin Cleaning Project (1994) [fig.1], where he restores a half-demolished building that was to be inevitably destroyed. Demolition for him represents not only the alienation between the city


and its detached residents but also, as Zhan describes, China’s attempt to “reach a level of Western-oriented modernization [for which] we are destroying the continuity of our own tradition.”13 In Ruin Cleaning Project, Zhan finds half torn down buildings on Wangfujing Street, a place filled with small beautiful buildings that were to be demolished because the “capital needs modernization and a commercial district.”14 In reality, Chen Xitong, the mayor of Beijing at the time, received $24 million for demolishing the old homes.15 Zhan cleans, paints and decorates the debris for a whole day. A few days later, a bulldozer destroys the half torn down home that he touched up.16 Ruins, for Zhan and many other Chinese people, do not represent a nostalgic retrospective view of human tragedy but rather acknowledge the ongoing destruction and construction of their city.17 Experiences of being debased, disoriented and feeling that there is a ‘missing subject’ confront the Chinese viewer who is faced with representations of ruins.18 The ‘missing subject’ is a motif that aligns with the idea of ghosts among China’s ruins. The ‘ghostly’ presence can be felt through the striking absences and their pressing suggestion that something is missing.19 By frivolously decorating the half-torn debris, Zhan brings the forgotten past into the present by contrasting the absence of the living subject with the polished decorations, thus creating a haunting experience of the ‘missing subject.’ This motif of the ‘missing subject’ or ghost among the ruins is unique to the Chinese consciousness because it derives from the fast-paced modernization forced upon the people for its monetary value rather than for the needs of the people. Therefore, Zhan Wang is one artist that re-appropriates the signification of ruins into a contemporary visual language that is no longer ominous and dangerous but rather in direct relation to Chinese consciousness, their politics and their everyday lives. Rong Rong, another artist who appropriates new meaning to Chinese ruins, does so in his Untitled No.5 [fig.2] photograph taken in 1996. He focuses on a pin-up of Deng Lijun, a popular Taiwanese singer whose picture was hung above Rong Rong’s bed throughout his

youth but who was also forbidden at the time for her “bourgeois” taste.20 Her serene look is found among random strands of waste and the photograph itself is partially ripped off. There is a factual, Bazinian indexicality of photography (allowing photography as an art form to act as proof of a real event – unlike painting) that gives Untitled No.5 a historicity and closeness to reality, capable of emotionally moving the viewer. The photograph is indexical proof of the existence of Deng Lijun’s damaged photograph left among ruins at a certain moment in time. Characteristics of destruction that are visible on the interior photograph – like the rip in the photograph of Deng Lijun – assert a fact that the photograph and the junk surrounding it are equal; both have been relinquished and disowned by someone. The factuality of photography dissuades one from treating the photographs (within his photographs) like a stand-in for the ‘missing subject.’ Instead, these photographs within the photograph do not symbolize a substitute for the missing pastinhabitant but rather represent abandoned or “discarded daydreams” left behind by the past inhabitants that “stare out from fallen walls and rubble, unaware that their surroundings have collapsed.”21 Rong Rong describes the significance of the photograph of Deng Lijun he had as a child:

“It was hung upstairs, in my bedroom. As a boy I was rather timid and was often scared when sleeping alone. But I felt safe when I saw the portrait […] Later, such feelings came back to me when I saw the torn pictures on those broken walls”.22 What Rong Rong has experienced by looking at the photograph of Deng Lijun’s face is what Roland Barthes calls the punctum of the photograph. The punctum “shoots out of [the photograph] like an arrow and pierces [the viewer],” who is wounded by a memory saturated with sentimental meaning.23 In a

way, he creates a cultural punctum by taking a picture of the popular singer’s photograph, abandoned among the physical ruin that many Chinese people collectively recognized as a representation of his or her own demolished homes. Though Deng Lijun may not have had the significance for the Chinese viewers as it did for Rong Rong, the abandonment of a cultural icon among ruins and the indexical fact that someone gave it recognition, via the camera, is a gesture that is sympathetically understood. The photographs are not a stand in for the ‘missing subject’ but rather has two significations: it represents a ‘discarded daydream’ identifiable by many Chinese affected by modernization while doubling as Rong Rong’s own specific ‘discarded daydream.’ Xu Jiang is a contemporary Chinese artist whom some scholars have deemed as, “China’s foremost ‘painter of ruins.’”24 At first glance, Xu Jiang’s work, such as the Chess Match Series (1998) [fig.3], look like a series of arbitrary modernist paintings. There is no explicit trace of “Chineseness” within these paintings and because of this, it is easy to take the side of the critic at the Silent Energy exhibition and describe this as a mere rendition of an already invented Western style. Yet this painting is an ideal example of new internationalism where one freely borrows styles without nationalistic boundaries.25 First of all, Xu Jiang creates his art with a historical consciousness where thought – contiguous with art – is always and inevitably situated by history. He depicts ruins as a series of creations and destructions, a manifestation of the historical process rather than a direct reference to the ghost ruins of Chinese modernization in Zhan Wang’s artwork.26 He takes on the task of the historian: to capture history and make it visible.27 Unlike Zhang Wang, who uses ruins to express the alienating experience of modernization in the present, Xu portrays history collapsing into a world of ruins in some distant dystopia. In a sense, his paintings are different because they are a depiction of history that stands outside of history itself. While many contemporary Chinese artists use art to depict the struggles of their time, either as subjects of mass modernization or other oppressive conditions, his paintings are intense,


rigorous, and fretfully infinite. This disables the Western viewer from merely confining the artwork to the socio-political realities in China that validate their ‘authenticity’ and instead it confronts them with the question of her/his own historical situation. Thus, Xu undermines the typical, “curatorial approach to contemporary Chinese art in the West,” where one situates Chinese art into a political narrative and merits the image of exoticism over the art itself.28 Xu Jiang portrays ruins in a drastically different style and execution so that its immediate association with ruins in a Chinese context is excised. Secondly, Xu Jiang’s artistic theory is influenced by traditional Germanic artistic thought. This is apparent when investigating the Chess Match Series. He references Heidegger’s theory of a “final return” that can be sensed when one pays close attention by making simple and direct observations and “[let] that which will come, come.”29 The “simple and direct observation” describes the act of painting itself, a technique that is visible in Chess Match of the Century-Steles (1998) in the variety of textured detailing and overall balance and unity. Heidegger’s theory of ‘final return’ can be paralleled with Daoist belief in cyclicality yet Xu Jiang’s artwork has specific qualities that denote a clearly non-eastern source of influence. Henceforth, Xu Jiang is an exemplar of a new internationalist artist who uses his historical consciousness to inaugurate his ruins pictures with transcendental meaning outside of the Chinese context and into the a universal context, as well as successfully borrowing, not just style, but also theory to express his idea of universal truth. Whereas Western theories of art by modernists such as Clement Greenberg make claims to viewer objectivity, Xu Jiang’s adoption of Western artistic theory and form resists the over-politicizing and over-historicizing that is projected onto the Other, by conveying his own subjectivity through his rendition of universal truth coincidentally subverted by using Western art forms. Three Chinese artists with three very different takes on ruins have been presented and each reveal certain parts of the Kunstwollen of Chinese contemporary society. Zhan Wang expresses his frustrations with the social injustice


inflicted upon his environment by refurbishing ruins to represent a sense of the ‘missing subject’ whereas Rong Rong approaches the same social issue by creating a culturally meaningful punctum of the ‘discarded daydreams’ of the subjects through depicting images of discarded photographs. Xu Jiang’s approach differs from both these artists by removing his own cultural identity and historicity and expropriating the signification of ruins as socio-politically relevant. Instead Xu Jiang’s ruins are pertinent to universal truth as seen from his personal and transcendental subject-hood. However, while a Chinese perspective may never be completely comprehensive, these artworks each reveal a different facet of Chinese art and enable minds similar to the Western critics of the Silent Energy exhibition to see a broader perspective – one that does not reduce all Chinese art to an essential ‘Chineseness’ or exoticness.

Notes 1. Hou Hanru, On the Mid Ground, (Hong Kong: Timezone 8 Ltd., 2002), 58-59. 2. Ibid., 58. 3. Linda Nochlin, The Politics of Vision, (New York: Harper & Row, 1989), 33-37. 4. Danielle Shang, “Orientalism and the Landscape of Contemporary Chinese Art,” Yishu, 8, no. 6 (2009): 41. 5. Hou Hanru, On the Mid Ground, (Hong Kong: Timezone 8 Ltd., 2002), 59. 6. Hou Hanru, On the Mid Ground, (Hong Kong: Timezone 8 Ltd., 2002), 59. 7. Danielle Shang, “Orientalism and the Landscape of Contemporary Chinese Art,” Yishu, 8, no. 6 (2009): 41. 8. Alois Riegl, “Leading Characteristics of the Late Roman Kunstwollen” (1893) in Donald Preziosi, ed., The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 174-175. 9. Ibid. 10. Wu Hung, Transience: Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 80. 11. Linda Nochlin, The Politics of Vision, (New York: Harper & Row, 1989), 39. 12. David Spalding, “Ghosts Among the Ruins: Urban Transformation in Contemporary Chinese Art,” Accessed April 9, 2012, http://sites. cca.edu/currents/pdf/02dspalding.pdf, 95-96. 13. David Spalding, “Ghosts Among the Ruins: Urban Transformation in Contemporary Chinese Art,” Accessed April 9, 2012, http://sites. cca.edu/currents/pdf/02dspalding.pdf, 95. 14. Wu Hung, Contemporary Chinese Art: Primary Documents, (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010), 206. 15. Wu Hung, Transience: Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 112. 16. Wu Hung, Contemporary Chinese Art: Primary Documents, (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010), 207. 17. Wu Hung, Transience: Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 112. 18. Ibid., pg. 110-112. 19. David Spalding, “Ghosts Among the Ruins: Urban Transformation in Contemporary Chinese Art,” Accessed April 9, 2012, http://sites. cca.edu/currents/pdf/02dspalding.pdf, 94. 20. Wu Hung, Transience: Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 117. 21. David Spalding, “Ghosts Among the

Ruins: Urban Transformation in Contemporary Chinese Art,” Accessed April 9, 2012, http://sites. cca.edu/currents/pdf/02dspalding.pdf, 97. 22. Wu Hung, Transience: Chinese Experimental Art at the End of the Twentieth Century, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999), 117. 23. Kasia Houlihan, The University of Chicago, “Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucidia --Reflections on Photography,” Accessed April 9, 2012, http:// csmt.uchicago.edu/annotations/barthescamera.htm. 24. Sun Shanchun, “Salvation and Return: An Analysis of Xu Jiang’s Recent Work ,” Yishu, 8, no. 6 (2009): 79. 25. Hou Hanru, On the Mid Ground, (Hong Kong: Timezone 8 Ltd., 2002), 59. 26. Sun Shanchun, “Salvation and Return: An Analysis of Xu Jiang’s Recent Work ,” Yishu, 8, no. 6 (2009): 78. 27. Ibid. 28. Danielle Shang, “Orientalism and the Landscape of Contemporary Chinese Art,” Yishu, 8, no. 6 (2009): 41-42. 29. Sun Shanchun, “Salvation and Return: An Analysis of Xu Jiang’s Recent Work ,” Yishu, 8, no. 6 (2009): 81.



Figure 1. “Ruin Cleaning Project” (1994) by Zhan Wang

Figure 3. “Chess Match” Series (1998) by Xu Jiang


Figure 2. “Untitled No.5” (1996) by Rong Rong




iews on footbinding and the perceptions of it within Chinese society are varied, whether they suggest that it was an erotic practice, one meant to subjugate women, or any number of other theories. From a time when the majority of women bound their feet following an ancient tradition to the Cultural Revolution, where women were forced to let out their feet, footbinding is a practice that is often discussed as being perpetuated by the women for whom it was a part of everyday life. Western scholars have been quick to pin the labels of oppression and patriarchy on such an exercise, without taking the time to examine the other ways in which it affected a woman’s life. Beyond being a simple embodiment of men’s desires, it also served as a determining factor in how women approached their femininity and body, and heavily influenced their desire to advance their social status. The relationship between family economics and footbinding and the effect of the tradition on Han identity will also be studied, with the aim of adding to literature about the influence of footbinding on a personal, familial and societal level during the late imperial period of China’s history. For a young girl in imperial China, losing her milk teeth was often the sign that she would soon enter a complicated part of a woman’s world; she would join her mother, elder sisters, and grandmother in the rigorous and often painful discipline of footbinding, and begin the transformation into an eligible future bride. Usually around the age of seven (but sometimes as young as four, or as old as fourteen1), a girl would have her feet bound


in increasingly tight cloth wrappings until they were forced to become as close to the idealised three-inch “golden lotus” form as possible. Some mothers, like Tang Yaoqing in Susan Mann’s history of women of the Zhang family, made great efforts to “protect [their daughters] […] by calling in the seasoned female practitioner who had the most experience in medicating and massaging newly bound feet,”2 while others, particularly in rural areas, took on the full responsibility themselves and bound their daughters’ feet while teaching them how to properly care for them. To understand the role that such a practice had in a woman’s life, one must examine how it mirrored Confucian concepts of the moral female body and prepared her for the primary goal of her societal duty, the production of sons. Without forgetting the obvious fact of the sometimes quasi-unbearable pain of bound feet, the discipline required to safely maintain such a physically demanding endeavour quickly became a routine for young girls. Without regular cleaning and rebinding of the feet, putrefaction and gangrene could quickly set in as pus and dead skin accumulated, which was both unsavoury and dangerous to one’s health.3 For young girls, the discipline imposed by footbinding involved controlling their body, regardless of pain, and redefined notions of self-containment.4 Young girls thus learnt to “become their body”5 and grow both morally and spiritually,6 restricting the space that they filled in the same way that the bindings on their feet limited not only their physical growth but also their movements and precipitousness, and paralleling the way in which

they were confined to the inner quarters when family status allowed it. Learning to keep the bindings tight despite discomfort and to continue the work of binding appropriately also taught young girls obedience, which would be a cherished quality for the rest of their life, particularly after marriage when their duties of obedience to their in-laws and husband would take precedence over personal comfort.7 The pain of footbinding was also thought to prepare young girls for the pain of becoming women when they would begin to menstruate and for the later pain of the first sexual intercourse and childbirth, both of which were essential for them to fulfill their primary societal function of becoming mothers to the sons that would continue the family line. According to Fred Blake, the sacrifice and pain of footbinding “provided mothers with an effective means for instructing their daughters in how to handle all kinds of bodily insult.”8 Self-sacrifice from an early age served as a painful reminder of a woman’s place within a patriarchal Confucian system by encouraging a woman to view herself as a mindful body that was at the service of others, and whose physical pleasure and comfort were secondary to the benefit of the family, the maintenance of the patriline, and by extension, the continuation of the state. While enforcing discipline and a control of the body, women who bound their daughters’ feet also modified them physically to fit a male erotic vision. Many possible reasons for the eroticisation of bound feet exist, but the correspondence between the yin essences of a woman’s internal alchemy and her physical shape cannot be ignored. Conceptions of the body and its internal alchemy suggested that the yin essence of women was crucial for conception, and that this essence could be found in her blood. Tightly bound feet were thought to push the blood flow away from extremities and up into the legs and hips, infusing the womb and core with greater reproductive potential.9 Thus, particularly small feet suggested increased fertility and likelihood to bear children, and the eroticised female body was closely linked to the body as a reproductive entity.10 The mystique surrounding the care of bound feet also served as an erotic factor, as washing the feet and bandages was considered a highly

intimate act that women engaged in in ultimate privacy and a man usually never saw his wife or daughter with her feet uncovered, since from the first day of binding, any act associated with it took place in the inner quarters. The elaborate concealment of bound feet paralleled the privacy and concealment of women in elite families; just as a woman would never reveal her feet lest she be considered immodest, proper Confucian women stayed within the inner quarters whenever possible to avoid having their virtue questioned. In contrast, women in rural settings often either loosened their bindings or forwent the practice altogether so as to be able to work in the fields, and similarly, were rarely confined to their homes as the family could not afford to lose the labour of female family members in the day-to-day activities needed for their survival. A woman’s key responsibility in Chinese society was to be married and produce sons; an unmarried daughter had very little value,11 as she was not yet defined by her husband’s status. Young girls were often told that they would not find a husband unless their feet were bound,12 as no man would want a bride with large, ugly feet, and women with natural feet were ridiculed in folk songs and nicknamed “madam big feet.”13 As previously discussed, tiny feet were seen as examples of a woman’s discipline, obedience and virtuous behaviour, as well as symbols of her emerging reproductive potential as she began to menstruate and be physically prepared for her role as bearer of children. All of these qualities fit the model for an ideal Confucian wife, making her desirable both as a bride and as a daughter-in-law. Literati men did not focus on the virtuous element associated to bound feet, but rather on the erotic nature of the practice, particularly when writing poetry about courtesan culture, in which they emphasised the delicate tiny feet of the women they frequented.14 The notion that a woman had no good marriage prospects unless she had bound feet seems to be one perpetuated by women themselves (and more specifically, prospective mothers-in-law) rather than by men. Indeed, by the 1800s, a number of men had joined anti-footbinding movements in which they pledged that they would not ask their wives to bind their daughters’


feet, or marry their sons off to women with bound feet.15 However, popular conceptions of footbinding saw it as a desirable practice that helped physically symbolise the virtues of a prospective bride,16 and thus encouraged women to bind their daughters’ feet so that they could make a profitable marriage. For women, who had no identity and no one to properly mourn them until they were married and bore children (particularly sons), a good marriage was the crucial step for social mobility and recognition, and this in turn depended on their bound feet. Since, with the exception of uxorilocal marriages, a wedding meant that a daughter would leave her natal family, and consequently limit contact with her mother, footbinding also prepared a woman for marriage by serving as an indicator that she would soon be separated from her parents and move into another family where she would assure the comfort of another person’s parents as well as the immortality of their lineage.17 If a wife were to have a daughter, she would in turn be groomed to become an ideal wife who would continue the cycle by moving out of her natal home and raising children, and from her earliest childhood, she would already belong to another family, that of her future husband. The tradition of footbinding, therefore, which one learnt from elder female relatives or one’s mother, was passed on as an enduring form of physical and mental training to further the reproductive goals of society and lineages. Having examined footbinding as an important factor in the social status of women in imperial China, it is also important to study how this practice affected women’s participation in family economics, whether in the elite strata of society or within more rural settings where every contribution was needed. Though the practice originated in the courtesan quarters and then caught on in upper classes, it filtered down through society until even the poorest of women tried to bind their daughters’ feet whenever possible, in hope that it would someday pay off when their daughters would marry up and thus increase their social status. Considering the labour-intensive crops grown by most of the peasantry in China, binding the feet of part of the workforce seems counterin-


tuitive and unproductive, and the footbinding practices were adjusted accordingly. Within a family, the first daughter may end up being the only one whose feet were rigorously bound, or binding might start later on and be less tight if the family needed its daughters to participate in labour, while in families where the women could be spared to work manually on textile production or embroidery, footbinding could be practiced more severely.18 Regardless of how complete the footbinding had been, any woman whose feet were bound at some time or another had impaired mobility and was vulnerable to disease and infection, particularly if her feet became damp from working in environments such as rice paddies.19 Furthermore, conventions of chastity and virtue meant that a woman could not do any work that required her to unwrap and expose her feet – this did not, however, prevent her from growing and harvesting dry crops.20 Beyond working in the fields, women were also actively involved in family economics by virtue of their role in domestic-based activities, the products of which were both directly used by the family and sold to provide additional income. While men traditionally worked in the fields in China, with the help of women at particularly labour-intensive times (such as sowing and harvesting periods), women’s work within a home also played a key role in the survival of the family. Women were responsible for spinning, weaving, sewing and embroidering to provide clothing and shoes for their family while also generating profit through the sale of surplus handmade goods. Occasionally, in situations where a family’s fields were in a poor state or too small to generate large amounts of grain, agricultural produce barely sufficed to fill the needs of the family, and so women’s work was used as an economic bolster that financially profited the family.21 Work that could be done from within the inner quarters was particularly prevalent in elite families, where the women remained cloistered in the inner quarters but often contributed to household economics by producing quality handcrafted dowry pieces such as embroidered shoes and clothes that could then be sold, or more often bartered, to supplement familial income, or in some cases pay for necessities that the family

could not afford otherwise.22 Beyond its personal and familial implications, footbinding also contributed to Chinese conceptions of the state and its civility, especially as compared to other “barbaric” societies. Particularly in the transition period between the Ming and Qing, national loyalty to the Han Chinese state and dynasty was often described in terms of gender. In particular, the issue of footbinding became one that drew a cultural line between the Han majority and the Manchu invaders. Footbinding moved from being an accepted tradition that was mainly confined to the inner quarters and perpetuated by the hands of women for the purposes previously identified to being a marked subject of interest in political spheres as the symbol of Han Chinese civility in the face of invading “barbaric” Manchus, who did not bind their feet. Rather than being a tradition used to define women’s gender and sexuality and to prepare them for marriage, the binding and adornment of feet became a sign of ethnic superiority and refinement, fitting in to the Confucian tradition of respect for proper attire. Women and their insistence on the continuation of the practice showed faithfulness to the Confucian standards of modesty and respect of one’s body, and thus demonstrated their devotion to the old system that had essentially been the founding blocks of Han Chinese identity. In this way, families that had women with properly bound feet were seen to represent the old values and to hold a higher level of civility and Confucian morality, and women’s feet were made into inadvertent symbols of loyalty to the Han Chinese state.23 Ultimately, one can examine many reasons for which footbinding was a tradition that persevered, carried out by the women whom it affected. Footbinding and its practice was about more than just eroticism; rather, it helped define a woman’s conception of herself as modeled upon Confucian conceptions of the body, as well as affording her social mobility. While helping to define a woman’s femininity and sexuality, her bound feet also influenced her place both within the home and society as a whole, and affected her role in family economics and labour. Female conceptions of the body were shaped as women’s

feet were molded to standards of beauty and chastity that shifted over time. Yet, contrary to various (often Western) feminist views, one cannot say that such a practice subjugated women to the point that they were rendered useless; especially in the case of women whose families depended in part on farming the land, women still actively participated in the household economy and got by on their own two feet, though not without some degree of pain. Women within the upper levels of society contributed to the survival of their family as well, though they were afforded the luxury of doing this within their homes. Footbinding did not remain a private matter uniquely, though it originated inside the home, particularly as the Ming dynasty drew to a close and footbinding became a symbol of Han civilisation and tradition. The golden lotuses of China’s past were multi-faceted, and defined them throughout their lives.


Notes 1. Joseph Rupp, “Bound Foot Stories”, Joseph Rupp Photography, http://www.josephrupp.com/ story15.html (accessed March 20, 2012). 2. Susan Mann, 2007, The Talented Women of the Zhang Family, Berkeley: University of California Press, p.24 3. Jodi O’Brien, 2009, Encyclopedia of Gender and Society: Footbinding, Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications, http://www.credoreference. com/book/sageegs. 4. In this context, I use “self-containment” as a way of explaining the idea that women should exist within their own body and space – this means both keeping emotions to themselves and not “contaminating” external spaces with hair, wrappings, clothing, etc. 5. Fred Blake, 1994, “Foot-Binding in NeoConfucian China and the Appropriation of Female Labor”. Signs. 19 (3): 676-712. esp.679. 6. For instance, such growth entailed learning better how to fit the womanly values of proper virtue, speech, manner and behaviour, as outlined in Ban Zhao’s “Lessons for Women”. 7. Particularly for Western scholars, the notion of “personal comfort” often entails the right to not suffer physically – in contexts such as the one discussed in this paper, personal comfort was deemed to be more a privilege than a right, and prioritised below the family structure and relations. 8. Fred Blake, 1994. 9. O’Brien, “Encyclopedia of gender and society: Footbinding.” ; Blake, “Foot-binding”, p.686. 10. Charlotte Furth, 1999, A Flourishing Yin Gender in China’s Medical History, 960-1665, Berkeley: University of California Press, http://hdl. handle.net/2027/heb.04218, p. 131. 11. In ““A Pearl in the Palm”: A Forgotten Symbol of the Father-Daughter Bond,” Weijing Lu explores the writings of Qing literati men about their daughters and the emotional bond between fathers and daughters, suggesting that despite an emphasis on the value of sons, daughters were often held in deep affection by their fathers, who lamented their loss after marriage or death. For more, see Weijing Lu, “”A Pearl in the Palm”: A Forgotten Symbol of the Father-Daughter Bond,” Late Imperial China. 31 (1): 62-97. 12. Rupp, “Bound feet stories”. 13. Blake, “Foot-binding”, p. 692. 14. Robin D. S. Yates, “Concubines and Courtesan Culture” (lecture, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, February 8 2012). 15. Patricia Ebrey, “Gender and Sinology: Shifting Western Interpretations of Footbinding, 1300-1890”, Late Imperial China, 20.2 (1999):



16. Robin D. S. Yates, “Women and Work” (lecture, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, February 1 2012). 17. Ibid. 18. Christena Turner, 1997, “Locating Footbinding: Variations Across Class and Space in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century China.” Journal of Historical Sociology. 10 (4): P.449. 19. O’Brien, “Encyclopedia of gender and society: Footbinding.” 20. Christena Turner, 1997, “Locating Footbinding: Variations Across Class and Space in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century China.” Journal of Historical Sociology. 10 (4): P. 451. 21. Blake, “Foot-binding”, p. 704 22. Mann, “The Talented Women”, p. 67 23. Dorothy Ko, 1997, “The body as attire: the shifting meanings of footbinding in seventeenth-century China”, Journal of Women’s History, 8 (4): p. 11-13.

Bibliography Ebrey,Patricia. 1999. “Gender and Sinology: Shifting Western Interpretations of Footbinding, 1300-1890.” Late Imperial China 20(2). Furth, Charlotte. 1999. A flourishing Yin gender in China’s medical history. Berkeley: University of California Press. http://hdl.handle.net/2027/ heb.04218. Ko, Dorothy. 1997. “The body as attire: the shifting meanings of footbinding in seventeenthcentury China.” Journal of Women’s History. 8 (4). Lu W. 2010. “”A Pearl in the Palm”: A Forgotten Symbol of the Father-Daughter Bond.” Late Imperial China. 31 (1). O’Brien, Jodi. 2009. Encyclopedia of gender and society. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications. http://www.credoreference.com/book/ sageegs. Rupp, Joseph. “Bound Foot Stories.” Joseph Rupp Photography. http://www.josephrupp.com/ story15.html (accessed March 20, 2012). Turner, Christena L. 1997. “Locating Footbinding: Variations Across Class and Space in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century China.” Journal of Historical Sociology.10 (4). Yates, Robin D.S. “Concubines and Courtesan Culture.” Lecture at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, February 8 2012. Yates, Robin D.S. “Women and Work.” Lecture at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, February 1 2012.

BALLOTS AND BULLETS Effects of Regime Change and Consolidation on North-South Relations on the Korean Peninsula CHRISTOPHER VILLEGAS-CHO


elations between the two Koreas can be characterized as a complex series of hot and cold rhetoric cycles, filled with bouts of passive-aggressive policies and posturing, all while continuing to operate within the confines of the unification discourse. The bi-polar state of relations between the two countries has resulted in a history of threats and actions meant to undermine their respective sovereignties and legitimacy, making brinksmanship the standard political dialogue on the peninsula. This paper seeks to identify the roles regime consolidation and hereditary transition plays in North Korean foreign relations. Provided that politics is a balancing of domestic interests and international pressures, North Korean politics is in part defined not only by its actions, but also by its responses to the international community. While elections represent shifts in equilibrium in the South, hereditary regime changes in the North are of equal political significance. As internal political instability increases, rhetoric against the other is used to consolidate a new leader’s position, resulting in the years leading up to elections and the deaths of Kim Il Sung/Kim Jong Il as critical moments of coercive threats and heated dialogue.


Much of Korea’s current political climate can be traced back to the American/Soviet division of the country. Following Japanese occupation, the United States unilaterally divided the country along the 38th parallel

without consulting Korean authorities.1 This belligerent move set a precedent for how the powers would operate as both the US and USSR proceeded to install their own respectively backed governments into power. Despite “Korean society [having] no base for either a liberal or democratic party as Americans understood,”2 American officials continued to prop up a conservative elitist government led by Syngman Rhee throughout the late 1940s. Utilizing much of the Japanese colonial bureaucracy, civil unrest became an increasingly pervasive phenomenon under the regime leading up to the Korean War. Conversely, Rhee’s Northern Soviet-backed equivalent became Kim Il Sung, a relatively unsuccessful militantturned-freedom fighter. With both leaders being firm supporters of unification and having “no qualms about [using] war,”3 as a means of achieving this goal, conflict inevitably erupted on the peninsula, bringing about American, Soviet, and Chinese interventions in the ensuing war. The end of the fighting resulted in a stalemate between the two Koreas, leaving the peninsula under a tenuous “armistice with China and North Korea,”4 a move unilaterally pushed forward by the United States without any negotiations with Rhee. For decades the balance on the peninsula remained stagnant at the 38th parallel, with surges in hot and cold relations between the two non-democratic regimes occurring whenever an act of aggression became publicized. Relations dramatically changed with the democratization of the South in 1988 and the formal dissolution of the So-


viet Union in 1991, as it not only resulted in a shift in power dynamics on the peninsula, but saw the North lose its primary economic and military partner. The North’s relationship with the South shifted with the election of Roh TaeWoo as it marked the end of military rule in South Korea; as a result, all future Southern leaders subject to the criticism and accountability that accompanies functioning democracies. This change in government marked the first of many divergences between the two Koreas. Perhaps more significantly, 1994 marked the death of Kim Il Sung in the midst of heated nuclear negotiations, setting the stage for his son’s succession.


Professor David Kang’s article, written in 1995, can primarily be seen as a response to the death of Kim Il Sung in 1994 and attempts to rationalize North Korean foreign policy as “neither surprising nor aberrant,”5 by debunking inaccurate misconceptions of the country. He refutes the popular view of North Korea as a war mongering and reckless aggressor on the basis that it remains to be seen if “the goal or intent of communizing the South through the use of force,”6 persists as a long-term policy goal for the North. Furthermore, Kang argues that previous internal political and military conflicts in the South did not result in an invasion, despite providing favourable conditions for a Northern attack. Attempting to interpret politics beyond simply defensive and offensive strategies, Kang’s nuanced interpretation of North Korea’s terrorist activities has him see the country’s terrorist actions as a means to “avoid threatening the central strategic balance…[while not] challeng[ing] the status quo on the peninsula,”7; North Korea’s aggressive posturing, both in its rhetoric and terrorist attacks, can thus be seen as attempts to appear aggressive enough to be threatening, but not hostile enough to warrant an escalation of the conflict. Kang’s second assumption concerns the global perception of South Korea and the US as playing a pacifist role on the peninsula. As the threat of “encirclement...invasion… [and] foreign influences direct [North Korea’s] actions,”8 the country has become very much aware of its diplomatic situation, lacking both


allies and influence within the greater international community. Surrounded by vocally hostile countries, North Korea arguably has every reason to rationally interpret “large scale amphibious landings and other offensive operations,”9 as being far more sinister than simple joint military force exercises between the South and the US. The open practice of such activities so close to the country’s borders does little to alleviate tensions on the peninsula and in many ways exacerbates an already delicate balance. The third assumption Kang challenges deals with the North becoming more of a threat “as it falls [further] behind the South,”10 with the increasing military and economic gap representing a diminishing opportunity to mount a successful invasion. While seemingly logical, this misconception fails to explain what motivations would lead to such decisive actions and has itself dependent on utilizing the Korean War, the peninsula’s only open conflict to date, as a frame for North Korea’s future offensive opportunism. This perspective fails to take into consideration the different circumstances of the post-Cold War world, primarily that “a broad survival dilemma…[makes] the North more cautious about adventures in foreign [states],”11 as a full out offensive would do little to strengthen the North Korean position but rather weaken it. Lastly, the view that “Korea is a powder keg,”12 seems unfounded simply on the basis that no open conflict has occurred since 1953. Kang points out that this analogy is flawed as it would suggest any rhetoric and act of aggression would “rupture the tenuous peace and engulf the peninsula in total war,”13 contrary to the loose, but tense, realities of North/South relations. He goes on to argue that there is little evidence pointing towards North Korea utilizing its potential nuclear technology in an offensive manner, noting that “nuclear weapons are primarily political and not military weapons.”14 Considering its threatened perspective, North Korea would largely use the technology as a deterrent or a bargaining chip, but what Kang overlooks is the potential proliferation of the technology for economic gain to other states whose motivations are not primarily political. Professor Kyung-Ae Park explores North Korea’s foreign diplomacy strengths and ana-

lyzes policy decisions during the 1994 Agreed Framework and subsequent 1998 fallout. Designed to put an indefinite freeze on North Korea’s nuclear program, the US promised to provide “the delivery of heavy oil and the funding for light water reactors,”15 in return for adhering to the treaty. However, missile tests by Pyongyang and the discovery of underground nuclear facilities in 1998 effectively derailed talks and communication. As North Korea’s decisions appear to be counterproductive to long term stability, Park utilizes neorealist perspectives to provide a logical framework behind these choices. While not necessarily negotiating from a position of strength, North Korea’s greatest asset lies in its ability to withstand coercive rhetoric, largely due to its failure to “integrate into the international interdependence web…[making] domestic variables…of greater importance.”16 This, in turn, contributes to a heightened sense of insecurity, causing the state to interpret all threats as attacks on its legitimacy and stability. Issues associated with its nuclear program and military are thus viewed as “struggles [for] the very existence of the nation,”17 rather than simply as a call to disarmament; conversely, the United States has less vested in negotiations than North Korea, as its interests are solely related to upholding non-proliferation guidelines than existential ones. A second determining factor to North Korean policy is its self-reliance ideology, Juche. As a central component to the regime’s resiliency, both in its ability to dismiss the fall of communism in the West and to promote austere lifestyles, Juche’s principle of “anti-foreign intervention…[and] anti-imperialism,”18 makes compromise and concessions difficult in the face of external pressure. Given how ingrained the concept has become within North Korean society, not adhering to it would result in a loss of face and legitimacy domestically, thereby forcing North Korean leadership to take defensive non-negotiable positions. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, regime consolidation remains one of the most defining aspect of domestic politics that influences foreign policy. As victories in the foreign policy arena would “coincide with building of…leadership [legitimacy],” Park argues that a leader’s ability to negotiate abroad would add to his

or her credibility depending on how many “concessions [are squeezed] from the stronger nation.”19 Viewed comprehensively, Park provides a logical framework from which to analyze North Korean policy actions. Beck’s analysis of Kim Jong Un’s ascension to power reinforces the role regime consolidation plays in the development of diplomatic relations. While he does acknowledge Kim has inherited a different set of circumstances than his father, regime stability still remains the most fundamental goal. Having only been “anointed as the successor in November of [2011],”20 Kim Jong Un came into power as a relatively unknown public figure. This suggests the possibility of other sources of power being placed to ensure a successful transition. Beck sees his uncle, Jang Song-Taek, and Kim Jong Il’s childhood friend, General Ri Yong-ho, as the true powerbrokers in the transitional regime.21 Comparatively, the economic situation he is inheriting appears to be marginally better than that of his father’s in1994; however, it is still not without its own set of difficulties. Although bilateral trade with China is poised to break the $5 billion mark and negotiations with the Russian government seem fruitful, the most promising potential diplomatic move concerns the United States, as the countries are “on the verge of reaching a more modest agreement to provide several hundred tons of nutritional assistance in exchange for the North ending…its enrichment program.”22 Echoing the last disarmament agreement from 1994, Kim Jong Un appears to be poised to utilize foreign policy victories to buttress his leadership credentials beyond simply exploiting his relation to his grandfather and father. In addition, the exchange for military compromises in return for economic compensation has become a staple in negotiations with the international community as the country’s economy continues to struggle in a Post-Soviet world. Similar to Park’s position, Beck suggests that without viable economic prospects, regime stability has become progressively more dependent on interactions with the international community, making a leader’s ability to gain favourable compensations from abroad a veritable means of gaining legitimacy. Professor Jae-Cheon Lim’s article goes


into greater detail comparing and contrasting the two hereditary transitions, examining how Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un have bolstered their legitimacy in the past prior to taking power. He cites the Panmunjom axe murders as being directly affiliated to Kim Jong Il, for Kim Il Sung went as far as to “send the US a letter expressing regret,”23 which suggests that the orders did not come from the father, but from the son. Additional terrorist acts, ranging from the Rangoon bombings to the hijacking of Korea Air Flight 858 have also been attributed to Kim Jong Il prior to his father’s death. Comparatively, Kim Jong Un has been linked with the Cheonan sinking and the artillery attack on Yeonpyong, two of the most prominent incidents for North/South relations in recent time.24 Lim goes on to speculate that relations will continue to be tense for the foreseeable future for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the country’s current tit-for-tat policy will continue to be problematic as it inherently results in an escalation of some sort, as neither party is willing to cede ground in either legitimacy or rhetoric.25 Additionally, the DPRK in the past has “sparked external crises as a means to internal unity,”26 a manoeuvre that will most certainly be used by Kim Jong Un to bolster his regime’s security. By focussing public attention to the outside, he may alleviate some of the internal economic pressures afflicting the country. While Lim states “Kim Jong Un has been trained to be a military leader,”27 it remains to be seen how he will manage these feat without having a veritable conflict in which to engage in. Strongly worded rhetoric and aggressive posturing appear to be Kim’s only means of fabricating a conflict he needs to attract attention away from domestic issues.


Professor Robert Jervis’ framework states that “when defensive [policies] differ from offensive ones, it is possible for a state to make itself more secure without making others less secure.”28 Within the context of North Korea, there is little noticeable differentiation between offensive and defensive posturing from the perspective of the outside world. The central guiding principle behind decision making has consistently been ensuring regime stability,


an issue that becomes tantamount to the nation’s survival as a whole in periods of hereditary transition. Considering the country’s economic performance over the past two decades since Kim Il Sung’s death, the legitimacy of the country’s leadership structure has most certainly come into question, perhaps manifesting itself most clearly in the decrease in defections over the last year combined with the variety of defectors: no longer simply elites, impoverished farmers are now finding sufficient motivations to risk leaving the country, which in turn has resulted in a border lockdown since the most recent Kim to ascend to power. Economic instability has forced both Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un to look towards alternative sources of legitimacy to consolidate their regime hold, making foreign policy victories all the more important in deciding the future of the nation. It is not by coincidence that North Korea has “officially declared itself a nuclear power...proclaim[ing] its newly asserted status in its Constitution.”29 Such a move effectively forces the world to give attention to reclusive country, setting the stage for Kim Jong Un to flex his diplomatic abilities (or at least appear to be). Park argues that “avoiding transparency in missile and nuclear issues [has become] a desperate need,”30 for North Korea, as the unknown and unpredictable public persona of the country and its leaders has functioned as leverage in negotiations. While the world scrambles to respond to the country’s most recent batch of missile and nuclear tests, there is no concrete knowledge available concerning the full extent of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. Acting doubly as a deterrent and a bargaining tool, the nuclear weapon, combined with the North’s already heightened sense of insecurity since the late 1970s, has made it “sensitive to even minimal threats, and to demand high,” which has clearly manifested itself in both rounds of negotiations, with both Kims’ demanding concession from the United States in return for disarmament. However, given that this technique has been used in the past and proven to be unsuccessful as a long term solution, the international community may be hesitant on this occasion to provide the same degree of concessions. This reluctance to acquiesce to the North’s demand has

resulted in an increase in aggressive rhetoric on both sides with no party willing to back down. While this two pronged attempt to build the new leader’s public persona might be effective in consolidating the regime, the inherent risk of brinksmanship remains very much apparent in North Korea’s foreign policy and prevents it from expanding itself through alternative methods.



1. Cumings, B. (2007). Division, War, and Reunification. Modern Korean Society: Its Development Prospect, 227. 2. Ibid., 230. 3. Beal, T. (2011). Crisis in Korea: America, China, and the Risk of War. New York: PlutoPress, 4. 4. Ibid., 9. 5. Kang, D. C. (1995). Rethinking North Korea. Asian Survey Vol 35 No 3, 253. 6. Ibid., 258. 7. Ibid., 259. 8. Ibid., 260. 9. Ibid., 261. 10. Ibid., 262. 11. Ibid., 262. 12. Ibid., 263. 13. Ibid., 263. 14. Ibid., 267. 15. Park, K.-A. (2001). North Korea’s Defensive Power and US North korea Relations. Pacifice Affairs Vol 73, No. 4, 235. 16. Ibid., 542. 17. Ibid., 544. 18. Ibid., 545. 19. Ibid., 549. 20. Beck, P. M. (2012). Norh Korea in 2011: The Next Kim Takes the Helm. Asia Survey, Vol 52 No. 1, 65. 21. Ibid., 67. 22. Ibid., 69. 23. Lim, J.-C. (2012). North Korea’s Hereditary Succession: Comparing Two Key Transitions in the DPRK. Asian Survey Vol 52 No 3, 566. 24. Ibid., 566. 25. Ibid., 567. 26. Ibid., 567. 27. Ibid., 567. 28. Jervis, 351. 29. Lee, H. Y. (2013). North Korea in 2012: Kim Jong Un’s Succession. Asian Survey Vol 53 No 1, 176. 30. Park, K.-A. (2001). North Korea’s Defensive Power and US North korea Relations. Pacifice Affairs Vol 73, No. 4, 543.

Beal, T. (2011). Crisis in Korea: America, China, and the Risk of War. New York: PlutoPress. Beck, P. M. (2012). Norh Korea in 2011: The Next Kim Takes the Helm. Asia Survey, Vol 52 No. 1. Cumings, B. (2007). Division, War, and Reunification. Modtern Korean Society: Its Development Prospect. Kang, D. C. (1995). Rethinking North Korea. Asian Survey Vol 35 No 3. Lee, H. Y. (2013). North Korea in 2012: Kim Jong Un’s Succession. Asian Survey Vol 53 No 1. Lim, J.-C. (2012). North Korea’s Hereditary Succession: Comparing Two Key Transitions in the DPRK. Asian Survey Vol 52 No 3. Park, K.-A. (2001). North Korea’s Defensive Power and US North korea Relations. Pacifice Affairs Vol 73, No. 4.


FROM EMPIRE TO STATE Japan and Taiwan’s Struggles in Building Coherent Nation-States Between 1945 to 1960 CLAIRE LAUNAY


he end of World War II witnessed the surrender of the Japanese Empire, ending 50 years of Japanese colonial rule over the Asia-Pacific region. In 1945, Japan was brought under American occupation until its independence in 1951, and the island of Taiwan became the siege of the exiled Republic of China after their defeat in the Chinese civil war. Upon signing the San Francisco Treaty in September 1951, both Japan and Taiwan were arguably recognized as independent nations, placing the sovereignty issue of Taiwan with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) aside. After the fall of the Japanese empire, both states were in new setting where being “Taiwanese” and “Japanese” had drastically different implications than just ten years before within the logic of colonialism. The result of this dramatic shift in power was that both states formulated new identities that were separate from the empire. In the case of Japan, the Japanese had to cope with defeat, delegate security issues to a Western nation and accept the end of its colonial domination over the Asia-Pacific region. For Taiwan, it meant coping with the end of Japanese rule and moving forward from colonial culture, language, and economy. It also meant the creation or the return to a Taiwanese identity, which had been marginalized during the colonial period. Identity-building was a necessary step in the process of creating a coherent nation-state. But in both cases, the creation of the so-called nation-state was challenged by a colonial past that had important cultural, political and economic influences. In this essay, I


will show how these two countries coped with their newly-obtained independence in terms of constructing a national identity. In this paper, I will start with a discussion of the concept of “nation-state” and its saliency in the Taiwanese and Japanese contexts in the post-WWII period. Then I will give a historical account of the Japanese empire to understand its significance for both Japanese and Taiwanese identities. Next, I will show the struggles encountered by Taiwan in the sixteen years following the end of World War II in its construction of a nation-state, and lastly, the Japanese challenges under and after American occupation. For the sake of brevity and clarity, I will put aside the issues of sovereignty between Taiwan and China, and only look at the process of national identity building within the island of Taiwan.


The origin of the concept of the nationstate can be attributed to the Treaty of Westphalia, signed by several European powers in 1648. This treaty gave birth to the “state system” where empires were required to geographically define their spheres of power, and by the same token, recognize other empires or states’ sovereignty and territory. If the people they comprise all share a common identity, can then become nation-states. According to Maukuei Chang, author of On the Origins and Transformation of Taiwanese National Iden-

tity, national collective identity must adhere to specific common characteristics and play a role in the international society:

“What causes the membership to identify with the collectivity […] includes two broad dimensions: the characteristics of the individual constituents of the group, such as shared language, culture, or ethnicity (particularly useful if these are not shared with an outside the group), leading them to identify with one another, and the characteristics of the group itself, such as a founding, a narrative history, and a role in international society, leading to a sense of shared interest in the fate of the whole”.1 The significance of this concept in East Asia is best exemplified by Japan’s move to have Korea recognized as a nation-state before the international community in order to justify colonization. By doing so, Japan was explicitly playing by the rules of the Western world, giving them a meaning in East Asia as well. During the American occupation between 19451951, Japan was in many ways influenced by the occupying culture, and adopted Western ideals, such as democracy and liberalism. While the Japanese were struggling to build a new Japanese identity by integrating a Western political culture, the inhabitants of Taiwan replaced the colonial administrative government with a different governing system. This is where Japan and Taiwan share a common experience: for both, the creation of the nation-state after 1945 was a process that was heavily influenced by outside players: the United States in the case of Japan, the Kuomintang (KMT) in Taiwan.



In 1868, political power in Japan went from the hands of the Shogun to the Meiji Emperor. Not only did this provoke a profound change in the political culture and identity of the archipelago, but overtime, it changed the meaning of the “Japanese” identity. According to Shinto belief, the lineage of the Japanese imperial family started with Ninigi, the grandson of the goddess Amaterasu.2 Descending from the goddess herself, the Emperor was therefore a “father” of the Japanese people, and the Japanese nation was conceived as a “divine nation” due to its ties to the goddess.3 Influenced by a strong Shinto rhetoric, the Meiji experience of being “Japanese” was something of which to be proud, as it instilled a nationalist sentiment of superiority in its people in its approach to colonizing neighbouring states. One of the first things that differentiate the colonial enterprise of the Japanese empire from that of a Western power was the distinction between the colonizer and the colonized. Whereas an important part of the rhetoric used by Western powers to justify their colonial ambition was the superiority of the White race over the coloured, Japan had to come up with a whole different set of ideas, embracing a “Pan-Asian” identity that both the colonizer and the colonized shared. Under the imperial ideology, Japan believed that the East Asian nations formed a “brotherhood” that united all of the empire’s peoples under the policy of assimilation. It was possible for people to become fraternal equals through education and the practice of Japanese customs. Within the empire, there were Nihonkokumin, or Japanborn Japanese spread in Korea, Manchukuo and Taiwan. There were, to a certain extent, Nihonjin, people from the colonies in the archipelago who were considered citizens of the Japanese empire. During the first decades of colonization, Japanese settlers had to come up with allegedly ethnographic works in order to be able to “differentiate” the colonized from the colonizer, especially in the case of Taiwan.4 This racial challenge gave birth to a different kind of discrimination stemming from language and people’s names. While Western powers drew a thick line between the settlers and the colonized, Japan chose a seemingly


more assimilating strategy by making the colonized “Japanese” to a certain degree, through forcing the teaching of Japanese in schools5 as one example.


When the Japanese powers arrived on the island of Taiwan in 1895, they were far from being the first foreign powers present. Indeed, Taiwan has had a long history of European powers setting up harbours and other necessities for trade, since the island of Taiwan is strategically located in the Asia-Pacific. Therefore, Taiwanese people, well before the Japanese era, were associated with foreigners through trade. Moreover, due to a shortage of labor in the seventeenth century, The Dutch East India Company, which invaded the Pescadores in 1622, attracted Han migrants, who drastically changed the previous tribal society.6 So even before the Japanese colonial era, Taiwanese identity was not an ethnically homogeneous nation. Despite the diversity, the Japanese experience would prove quite overwhelming. Indeed, going much further than establishing trade relations, the Japanese Empire established its first colony in Taiwan in 18957 – after forcefully integrating Hokkaido in 1869 – with the aim of showcasing, through its economic success, the strength of the recently-formed Empire. This meant that Japan would entirely restructure the way the country was ruled. The settlers made a real effort to improve the Taiwanese economy, its industry and the public sector.8 Although it remained a colonial economy, the human and natural resources of the island used to bolster the economic and military development of Japan set solid foundations for the post-colonial Taiwan. Several public works projects, such as railways, public education and telecommunications were implemented during the Japanese rule on the island,9 which helped transform Taiwan into an industrialized and modern nation. It may also partly explain why there was not as much resentment in Taiwan against the colonizing forces as one usually witnesses in colonies. In the cultural sphere, the Japanese Em-


pire imposed the Japanese language, kokugo, or the language of the empire, in its colonies. According to Yŏn-suk Yi, author of The ideology of kokugo: nationalizing language in modern Japan, “through kokugo education, the tie between kokugo and kokka, the language and the nation, became accepted in people’s linguistic consciousness, and hence a critical dissent never appeared.”10 This is best exemplified by some of the testimonies of Taiwanese children who spoke the “national language” but whose parents did not. These children, brought up in the imperial rhetoric, thought of kokugo as a natural language, and those who did not speak it were simply lacking in education.11 Indeed, education in general was prioritized during Japanese rule. Whereas school attendance for Taiwanese children was of 3.8% in 1904, it was of 71.3% in 1943 and even higher for Japanese nationals residing in Taiwan.12 There were also special cases where Taiwanese people pursued higher education and went to Japan for further studies. From 1895 to 1945, the identity of the Taiwanese people faced several challenges. Indeed, most of the language used to define what is Taiwanese at that period is nothing more than an opposition to what is Japanese. At the same time, there was this pre-empire historical legacy of a heterogeneous people. On top of this, there was a real effort from the imperial power to instill Japanese culture onto the colonized. In this effort, there was a particular emphasis on language and on the reverence to the emperor. However, there were little signs of Shinto elements in Taiwan. Therefore, even the Japanese culture that participated in the Taiwanese identity at that time was a selective one, and one that was largely political, emphasizing the unity of the empire under one language and one ruler, but leaving behind other aspects of Japanese culture that might have been deemed unnecessary to the colonized.


A striking element of the conclusion of the Japanese rule over Taiwan and its other colonies is the absence of a decolonizing process altogether. The process seemed instantaneous, especially in comparison to the decolonization experience of the colonies under Western sys-

tems of colonization. On September 2, 1945, Japan signed the Instrument of Surrender,13 effectively giving up rule over their former colonies, including Taiwan. The next day, the Empire of Japan had come to an end, provoking a major shift in the balance of power in the region. In the case of Taiwan, there had been little resistance against the colonial powers, and so the sudden shift of power from imperial Japan to the Republic of China was particularly swift. Only four years later, in 1949, the KMT officially set its government in exile in Taiwan after its defeat in the Chinese civil war. Taiwan had come from being part of the most powerful empire in the region to a part of a state torn by civil war, and it was finally the place where a government in exile would exercise its rule. This rapid shift in governance, political ideology and, of course, nationality, were new challenges to building of a national, Taiwanese identity: how can a nation-state be formed if the state in itself is that unstable and its people still very much influenced by a foreign identity? The KMT’s rise to power finally paved the way for an independent state, where people were no longer defined by an external power. Only after 1949 was Taiwan able to start the enterprise of the building of its own national identity. Several policies were then put in place, such as the making of standardized Chinese (Mandarin) mandatory in schools and the overall synthesis of both the Chinese and Japan educational systems.14 The government’s program of “de-Japanization” created cultural estrangement amongst Taiwanese people, as families would have, for example, a grandmother speaking a Taiwanese dialect or Mandarin, a father speaking Japanese and a daughter speaking Mandarin again. Just as kokugo created a sort of unity in Taiwan languagewise, Mandarin might, over time, have the same effect, and thus help construct a more unified Taiwanese identity.


On the Japanese side, the end of World War II meant something drastically different.

Whereas Taiwan became independent for the first time since Japanese colonization, Japan was under direct foreign occupation for the first time since the formation of the state. This occupation happened under conditions that deeply changed the sense of what it meant to be Japanese. Japan went from a major power status, the strongest empire in Asia, to one from which significant parts of its territory were taken away. In terms of population, the empire used to rule over what then became several independent countries. The diversity, though all under of the Japanese empire, in terms of ethnicity, language, geography and so on, no longer existed. Whereas before 1945, there were a multitude of different ways to be Japanese national, there was suddenly only one, one that only encompassed the archipelago we know today. The multiethnic empire to which Japan belonged and which it ruled, was estranged from it all at once. Not only did the geographical and demographical reality of Japan changed dramatically in a short amount of time, but also its political culture. Under American occupation, Emperor Showa was demanded to make a public announcement on television, stating the defeat of Japan, the end of imperial rule and the end of the kami status given to the imperial family in general. The speech marked a huge shift in the way Japanese people thought of themselves thereafter. From a militaristic, internationallyactive people, they would become an example of peaceful nation, as exemplified by its constitution which formally forbade it to have a state army, only self-defence forces. To ensure their security while keeping in check their stillfeared militaristic ambition, the United States established military bases in the south of the archipelago, most notably in Okinawa. Movements toward democratization emerged in Japan before the occupation, but it was only with US rule that a fully democratic, accountable government was born in Japan. This democratization changed the role of the average Japanese citizen, from a subject of the emperor to an active participant in everyday politics. But the most salient aspect of the American occupation in terms of Japanese political identity was the liberalization of trade, which was greatly facilitated by the US military


takeover. Overall, the end of the World War II and the American occupation heavily marked the Japanese identity, as it provoked drastic changes in the way they thought of themselves in relation to other nations, but also in the way they thought of themselves as part of a domestic political process. The descent of the Emperor’s power was an ideologically traumatising event as well, as he was considered the father, the leader of the Japanese people.


In 1951, the American occupation effectively came to an end and the first Security Treaty between Japan and the US was signed. This greatly contributed in directing postoccupation Japan towards economic development. However, it had several contradictions at the core of its national identity: the emperor no longer exerted political power, Japan was a modern, capitalist state often classified with Western powers, and although it was globally considered a homogeneous nation in terms of ethnicity and culture, it had to deal with the legacies of its own colonial past. The idea of the “myth of the homogeneous nation” put forth by Oguma Eiji15 goes against the popular belief that Japan is ethnically and culturally unified. Indeed, a number of Koreans, Taiwanese and Koreans emigrated to Japan during the colonial era. While they would then be considered a foreigner if they returned to their home country, Japan did not grant citizenship to most of the first generation immigrants. The fact that there is a whole genre of literature, called Nihonjiron, dedicated to defining or trying to understand Japanese national and cultural identity, is also a good evidence of the struggle of the Japanese people to define themselves as part of the post-war Japanese state. Peter Dale even argues that production of this genre reached an industrial scale at this period, even calling it the “unflagging productivity of the genre.”16 The doyen of the genre, Shōichi Watanabe alone has hundreds of articles and volumes on Japanese culture, society, politics, history, and identity to his credit, all reflecting on “the Japanese.”17



In both Japan and Taiwan, the idea of a single national identity is assumed, but does not encompass all the complexities brought forth by the colonial era and its aftermath. Japan cannot be considered ethnically homogeneous, especially if we acknowledge the significance of the zainichi and hafu population residing in Japan, The problem of identity-building following the colonial era is not entirely solved, either in Japan or in Taiwan. In Japan, there were consequences well after the 1950s, as shown by discrimination against Zainichis. Taiwan’s identity building is challenged by the fact that its sovereignty is still put into question.

Notes 1. Maukuei Chang, On the Origins and Transformation of Taiwanese National Identity, working paper, Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan; Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989). 2. TSUNODA Ryusaku, Wm. Theodore de Bary and Donald Keene (Eds.). “The Earliest Records of Japan.” From Sources of Japanese Tradition, Vol. I. Columbia University Press, 1958. 1-33. 3. Hori, Victor Sogen. “What is Shinto?” Class lecture, Japanese Religions, McGill University, Montreal, QC, September 10, 2012. 4. Wong, KA F. «Entanglements of ethnographic images: Torii Ryūzō’s photographic record of Taiwan aborigines (1896–1900”), Japanese Studies, Vol. 24, Iss. 3, 2004 5. Tai, Eika. “Kokugo and colonial education in Taiwan”, Positions, Fall 1999 7(2): 503-540 6. “Chapter 7”. A Brief History of Taiwan. ROC Government Information Office. Retrieved 2006-07-18 7. Han-Yu, Chang. “Japanese Colonial Development Policy in Taiwan, 1895–1906: A Case of Bureaucratic Entrepreneurship” 8. Emanuel Pastreich (July 2003). “Sovereignty, Wealth, Culture, and Technology: Mainland China and Taiwan Grapple with the Parameters of “Nation State” in the 21st Century ». Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Archived from the original on 2006-06-14. Retrieved 2006-07-18. 9. “Chapter 7”. A Brief History of Taiwan.

ROC Government Information Office. Retrieved 2006-07-18 10. Yi, Yon-suk. The ideology of kokugo: nationalizing language in modern Japan, University of Hawaii Press, 2010. 11. Kawamura, Minato. “The “composition” of Empire: one aspect of cultural imperialism in Modern Japan”, p 107. 12. Gary Marvin Davison. A short history of Taiwan: the case for independence. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. p. 64 13. Broom, Jack. “Memories on Board Battleship,” Seattle Times. May 21, 1998 14. Gary Marvin Davison. A short history of Taiwan: the case for independence. . Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003. p. 64 15. Askew David, Review of Eiji Oguma’s “Tan’itsu Minzoku Shinwa no Kigen: ‘Nihonjin’ no Jigazō no Keifu (The Origin of the Myth of Ethnic Homogeneity: The Genealogy of ‘Japanese’ SelfImages), Social Science Japan Journal , Vol. 4, No. 1 (Apr., 2001), pp. 111-116 16. Peter Dale,The Myth of Japanese Uniqueness, Pacific Affairs , Vol. 61, No. 4 (Winter, 19881989), p 691 17. www.watanabe-shoichi.com

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lecture, Japanese Religions, McGill University, Montreal, QC, September 10, 2012. Kawamura, Minato. “The “composition” of Empire: one aspect of cultural imperialism in Modern Japan.” Maukuei Chang, Maukuei. “On the Origins and Transformation of Taiwanese National Identity”, Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, 1996. Pastreich, Emmanuel. “Sovereignty, Wealth, Culture, and Technology: Mainland China and Taiwan Grapple with the Parameters of “Nation State” in the 21st Century ». Program in Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign., July 2003. ROC Government Information Office, A Brief History of Taiwan. Retrieved 2006-07-18. Shen, Jianming. “Sovereignty, Statehood, Self-Determination, and the Issue of Taiwan”, 15 Am. U. Int’l L. Rev. 1101, 1999-2000. Tai, Eika. “Kokugo and colonial education in Taiwan”, Positions, Fall 1999 7(2). Tsunoda Ryusaku, Wm. Theodore de Bary and Donald Keene (Eds.). “The Earliest Records of Japan.” From Sources of Japanese Tradition, Vol. I. Columbia University Press, 1958. “渡部昇一プロフィール.” www.watanabeshoichi.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2014. <http://www.watanabe-shoichi.com>. Wong, KA F. «Entanglements of ethnographic images: Torii Ryūzō’s photographic record of Taiwan aborigines (1896–1900”), Japanese Studies, Vol. 24, Iss. 3, 2004 Yi, Yon-suk. The ideology of kokugo: nationalizing language in modern Japan, University of Hawaii Press, 2010.


VISUAL ESSAY: NOTES ON THE GUANGXI PROVINCE ELIA SOMMERLAD Throughout most of my life, I have been exposed to the grand history and flourishing culture of the Western world. The ‘Far East’ always struck me as a distant parallel universe, unrelated to people like me. It was my mother who nurtured the first step towards the vast Chinese lands. Sure, I had heard many China-related stories – mostly of the kind that bombards the news – most of which seemed to affect my future but nonetheless provoked no emotional responses in me. To the individual, the world appears to be filled with knowledge, with stimuli – a colourful patchwork of harmonizing and juxtaposing elements. Yet the planet earth is small. Given these overarching circumstances, how could one possibly not try to experience its every facet? Through my photography I strive to capture the essence of my experiences in China, and in the Guangxi province more specifically.






he study of new religious movements and primitive religious ritual in Japan presents many challenges for scholars of religion. While there are sincere attempts to avoid value judgements and pejorative labelling of the subjective religious experience of various communities, the perceived trends and media stereotyping of these phenomena makes these attempts difficult. When assessing the subject, the question of why these phenomena continue to exist in contemporary Japan is both important and indicative of the nature of Japanese society and modern, capitalist societies as a whole. Using the particularly representative example of the mizuko-kuyo to account for the continued existence of the primitive in the modern, this paper will argue that contemporary capitalist society of Japan has not fully satiated the population with technology, consumerism, and convenience but instead created alienation and anxiety. Because these problems cannot be remedied by the same structures that created them, participants look to new religious movements and primitive religious ritual as a source of healing and catharsis. Paradoxically, the institutions that provide these perceived remedies do so within capitalist frameworks of for-profit endeavours and marketing. Therefore, the primitive survives because there is the mutually beneficial relationship of supply and demand. At the same time however, it is impossible to qualify these experiences as genuine or not. While it is clear that in some cases these institutions play confidence tricks, if all participants lacked faith in the religious or ritual practices they would not

survive in contemporary Japanese society. Writing on the phenomena of new religions and the “survival of shamanic tendencies” in the modern age, Ichiro Hori argues that this phenomenon should be understood as, “…a response to the acute anomie into which the Japanese people were thrown by defeat and occupation…” and that “…the complete destruction of traditional Japanese social, cultural, and political structures was averted by the rise of new religious movements.”1 This explanation draws on R.K. Merton’s sociological theory of anomie with regards to the third adaptation, ritualism. Hori clarifies this theory by stating, “…ritualism denies the cultural end of given society but approves institutionalized means as a response to anomie.”2 In other words, ritualism supports conformity to institutional norms while abandoning cultural goals and therefore do not represent deviance. Save for anomalies such as Aum Shinriko, this application of Merton’s theory certainly holds weight but is it a thorough explanation of why these traditions survive? While there is no doubt that the Japanese state had been propped up and legitimized by established religions and that the Japanese experienced collective disillusionment directly after their surrender in the Second World War, this is not a thorough explanation for the survival of folk religion and ritual in contemporary Japan. Ichiro Hori’s explanation of the survival of shamanic tendencies and his appropriation of Merton’s theory of anomie is more an explanation of how, rather than why new religious movements were revived or established. For the answer to that question, it is important to reflect on the


nature of capitalist societies, especially in the case of Japan, where the influence of American cultural and capitalist imperialism rendered Japan a virtual client state of the United States of America. In the observation of traditional religious activity, it is clear that this phenomenon is not exclusively based in the undereducated and uncultured strata of society but instead transcends these boundaries. These members of Japanese society who participate in primitive beliefs and practices are responding to the alienation and anxiety of urban life in capitalist societies while simultaneously, the religious institutions that offer outlets for the relief of said alienation and anxiety exploit this vulnerability. This perpetual cycle of exploitation initially by capitalist structures and subsequently by religious institutions takes on multiple manifestations. From an active standpoint, these include new religious movements and for-profit ritual practice surrounding the life cycle. From a passive standpoint the cycle is reversed. For example, the affirmation of primitive notions of ritual impurity by Japanese religious institutions systematically oppresses the Burakumin, which in turn reinforces their already underprivileged socio-economic position within capitalist society. This interpretation may appear to be an overly cynical critique because unmistakably symbiotic relationships transpire between religious institutions and their patrons. In many cases, these patrons exchange their capital for catharsis and the nature of the value exchange fits within capitalist constructs, despite the apparent jumbling of the sacred with the profane. The mizuko-kuyo or ‘memorial to water child’ is a Japanese memorial rite associated with Buddhist temples that emerged in the Tokugawa period for miscarried and stillborn babies and aborted foetuses. In the post-war period, the Japanese government opted to encourage the use of condoms and abortion as a means of responding to Japan’s population influx and by 1951, women had access to legal, safe, and inexpensive abortions. Around the early 1970s, the practice of mizuko-kuyo became increasingly public with the creation of temples such as Jizo-ji temple dedicated to mizuko-kuyo. However, this is not to say that Japanese society had fully accepted abortion as a legitimate means of birth control. In fact, the founder of Jizo-ji temple Hashimoto Tet-


suma criticized the practise along with many religious groups. At the same time, Japan witnessed an increase in the number of mizukokuyo rituals performed and a media frenzy surrounding the moral ineptitude of Buddhist temples commodifying the practice. Referred to as the mizuko-kuyo boom, this phenomenon continued into the 1980s and can be attributed to a number of factors that shed light on the question of why the primitive continues to exist in the modern world. The family planning policy of the Japanese government is one factor in the mizukokuyo boom, but this accounts for why abortion was common in Japan at the time. The real question is why the practice itself experienced a boom. To begin with, the pre-modern period saw the Japanese population primarily inhabiting rural environments where extended families lived in one residence. During traumatic life events such as miscarriages or abortions, women would have the support network of females within here family to provide emotional support and a collective process of grief. By the time of the mizuko-kuyo boom, Japan had undergone vast changes in both the social and economic spheres. Just as today, the majority of the population inhabited urban environments as nuclear families where the traditional Japanese family structures were to a certain extent abandoned. In a lecture on the mizuko-kuyo, Victor Hori calls this phenomenon the “privatization of emotion”3; where in the modern context women who underwent an abortion a no long had the traditional structures of emotional support after such an experience. Meanwhile, temples in search of new sources of funding would advertise their expensive mizuko-kuyo services by exploiting a woman’s guilt and fear after an abortion. The advertisements capitalized on Buddhists notions of karmic retribution and the traditional notion of goryo, vengeful spirits, by equating them with aborted foetuses. While print and broadcast journalism, along with members of religious communities and Japanese feminists, intensely criticized the practise, the practice maintained popularity and demand.4 These women were not merely the victims of manipulative advertisement but instead had reasons to pay for and engage in the practice that

were independent of this factor. In an article on the mizuko-kuyo, Meredith Underwood mentions that Japanese women have told her that, “… they are persuaded their action did somehow constitute an offence for which they must make amends and, second, that rational, moral religion does not meet their needs to accomplish this.”5 However, in the same article she notes that by the average Japanese women reaches forty years old she will have had two abortions.6 The clearly means that despite the common belief that the action is some how “an offence,” the practice of abortion and mizukokuyo continues. What we see here are women, brought into isolation and alienation by capitalist constructs, who are offered a commodified, ritual solution to a moral problem for which women are willing to pay the price. In Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan William LaFleur supports this argument by claiming that ritual practice rooted in Japanese Folk tradition has been “…drawn forward into a modern context in order to ritually resolve the moral dilemma brought on by abortion.”7 For obvious reasons, the cause of this moral dilemma is not manipulative advertisement but extends deeper into notions of human ethics and emotion. Although conflicting emotion certainly erodes rationality, the mizuko-kuyo must be an authentically therapeutic and effective ritual for many woman undergoing guilt and other emotional hardship due to abortions, miscarriages, and stillbirths. These women abandon modern notions of the rational and opt instead for ritual healing because it is perceived as the best means of catharsis that is otherwise unattainable within their present context. After all, the widespread criticism of the mizuko-kuyo boom stems not from the nature of the practice itself, but its exploitation for capital gain by religious institutions. The hope and promises offered to Japan by modernization and capitalism have not been fully realized. This phenomenon is not unique to Japan. These developments in many ways have been for the Japanese a poison chalice. Despite higher standards of living and gross domestic product, modernization and capitalism have maintained the oppression of women and other marginalized groups, replaced no-

tions of community with the individual, and equated prosperity with the accumulation of capital. This has also resulted in widespread emotional illness that cannot be remedied with “modern” solutions such as prescription drugs or consumptive distraction. For this reason, many members of Japanese society look to the modern manifestations of the primitive as the most effective, accessible, and holistic remedy to their very modern dilemmas.




1. Ichiro Hori. “The New Religions and the Survival of Shamanic Tendencies.” Folk Religion in Japan: Continuity and Change. Ed. by Joseph Kitagawa and Alan L. Miller. University of Chicago Press, 1968/Midway Reprint, 218 - 219. 2. Ibid., 219. 3. Victor Hori. New Religious Movements. Japanese Religions. McGill Unviersity, Montreal. October and November. 2012. Lecture. 4. Meredith Underwood. “Strategies of Survival: Women, Abortion, and Popular Religion in Contemporary Japan.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 67/4 (1999), 740. 5. Meredith Underwood. “Strategies of Survival: Women, Abortion, and Popular Religion in Contemporary Japan.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 67/4 (1999), 740. 6. Ibid., 743. 7. Ibid., 744; William R. LaFleur. “A World of Water and Words.” Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan. Princeton University Press, 1992, 12.

Alldritt, Leslie D. “The Burakumin: The Complicity of Japanese Buddhism in Oppression and an Opportunity for Liberation,” Journal of Buddhist Ethics. Bornoff, Nicholas. “Phallicism and Fertility.” Pink Samurai: Love, Marriage and Sex in Contemporary Japan. New York: Pocket Books, 1991. Fox Young, Richard. “Magic and Morality in Modern Japanese Exorcistic Technologies. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. 17/1 (1900). Fox Young, Richard and IKEUCHI Fuki. “Religion in ‘The Hateful Age’: Reflections on Pokkuri and Other Geriatric Rituals in Japan’s Aging Society.” Japanese Religions. 20/2 (1995). HORI Ichiro. “The New Religions and the Survival of Shamanic Tendencies.” Folk Religion in Japan: Continuity and Change. Ed. by Joseph Kitagawa and Alan L. Miller. University of Chicago Press, 1968/Midway Reprint. HORI, Victor. New Religious Movements. Japanese Religions. McGill University, Montreal. October and November. 2012. Lecture. LaFleur, William R. “A World of Water and Words.” Liquid Life: Abortion and Buddhism in Japan. Princeton University Press, 1992. SHIMAZONO Susumu. “In the Wake of Aum: The Formation and Transformation of a Universe of Belief.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies. 22/3-4 (1995). Underwood, Meredith. “Strategies of Survival: Women, Abortion, and Popular Religion in Contemporary Japan.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 67/4 (1999).




n his 1972 feature-length documentary Sayonara CP, Japanese filmmaker Hara Kazuo follows the lives of a group of people with Cerebral Palsy (CP) as they attempt to counteract the ontological statuses their Tokyo community has prescribed them. Mobilizing collectively as the Green Lawn Movement, they engage in a series of public demonstrations that involve using their bodies and shared space in unconventional ways: their tactics include navigating urban infrastructure without assistive technology, soliciting donations, giving speeches, and even stripping down in a symbolic display of the disabled body. Kazuo’s film analyzes the relationship between the experience of living with CP and the wider structure of able-bodied society in order to understand and publicize their grievances. Drawing on French political theorist Jacques Rancière’s theory of aesthetic politics, I will explore the value and context of the Green Lawn Movement’s demonstrations. I will argue that nondisabled people strategically disavow the rightful citizenship of people with CP in order to maintain the established social order, which privileges the able body and reflects the interests of industrial capitalism. In his book Disagreement, Jacques Rancière develops a notion of aesthetic politics in which social order is achieved through the distribution of bodies into a coherent and perceptible set of roles. The “police order,” as he calls it, configures “ways of doing, ways of being, and ways of saying, and sees that bodies are assigned by name to a particular place and task.”1 He defines politics conversely as the “mode of

expression that undoes the perceptible divisions of the police order by implementing a basically heterogeneous assumption, that of a part of those who have no part.”2 Rancière thus argues that the goal of political activism is to disidentify with a prescribed role and to assert new ways of being that are not represented within the existing social order. To illustrate this theory, Rancière discusses the plebeian political tactic of mass secession in ancient Rome, which was deployed several times to protest the common people’s systematic disenfranchisement by the ruling patrician class. The patricians believed that plebeians were categorically incapable of rational thought and used this as justification to deny them a symbolic role in the social order of the city. After the plebeians successfully demonstrated their ability to construct a functioning community outside of Rome, the patrician class was forced to recognize their rationality and acknowledge their eligibility for a new set of roles in the community. This discriminatory relationship between patrician and plebeian is replicated in the relationship between able-bodied and disabled people in Sayonara CP. Perpetrating the ignorance of the patricians, the able-bodied people in the film – both strangers and close family members – tend to perceive the people with CP as categorically disabled. As one of the members of the Green Lawn Movement asserts, many people automatically assume they are intellectually impaired because of the way their bodies appear. Instead of trying to understand the complexities of Cerebral Palsy,


able-bodied people extrapolate from visible stigma that all the capacities of their bodies are corrupt. Another member, Yokoto Hiroshi, whom the film largely centers on, says that his uncle believed that he could not have sex, fall in love, get married, or have kids. By conceiving so, the uncle disavows the range of abilities and potentials that Yokoto retains in spite of his disability. Indeed, Yokoto and several other members of the Green Lawn Movement succeed in having family. By superficially evaluating the abilities of people with CP, able-bodied people in the film conduct the same insidious actions as the patricians: to recognize citizenship on the basis of ability. The flip side of Yokoto’s uncle’s comments is the imperative that people with CP should not be enfranchised with the same rights as nondisabled people, nor should they be encouraged to pursue the same kinds of social roles – as husbands, lovers, or fathers. The members of the Green Lawn Movement are often not even acknowledged as human beings, let alone viable social subjects: people passing by their public demonstrations or encountering them individually in the film mostly ignore them. Immediately recognizing the evidence of their disability, able-bodied people are given the opportunity to disregard their solicitations by pretending they are unaware of them. This able-bodied response is made uncomfortably clear during a scene in which Kazuo films a man with CP as he tries to photograph people waiting in line for the bus. Each person the cameraman approaches stands violently still, obviously aware of his attempt to solicit their attention, and of Kazuo’s own camera, but acting as if nothing was happening. While the imposition of the lens of a camera often causes people to freeze, it is clear in this scene that these cold responses are conditioned by the visible stigma of the cameraman’s disability. If able-bodied people were to interact critically with the experiences of people with CP, they would be forced to legitimize their right to other, more enfranchised forms of citizenship. As Rancière argues, this is what occurred in the aftermath of one of the secessions, when a patrician diplomat named Menenius Agrippa was sent to coerce the plebeians to return to the city:


“from the moment the plebs could understand Menenius’s apologia – the apologia of the necessary inequality between the vital patrician principle and the plebeian members carrying it out – they were already, just as necessarily, equals.”3 By attempting to reason with the plebeians, the patrician unwittingly validated their ability to reason and confronted their equal right to citizenship under the criteria the patricians had defined. Similarly, in Sayonara CP, because able-bodied people are not forced to consider the range of abilities people with CP retain in spite of their disability, they do not have to recognize their eligibility for the same set of civil capabilities as able-bodied citizens. As I will demonstrate, it is a threat to negotiate with the rational agenda of the Green Lawn Movement because it has the potential to destabilize the dominant modes of compulsory able-bodiedness and industrial capitalism in contemporary society. As the cast of disabled people in Sayonara CP assert, the existing social order provides problematic solutions to their ontological status as disabled people. According to the cameraman, from an early age people with CP are medicalized and forcibly subjected to certain kinds of assistance – to which, he says, “We can only be passive.” The wheelchair, which is conceptualized as an assistive technology for Yokoto, is actually a much slower means of getting around than walking on his knees; and yet people in the film stare at him when he chooses to abandon this technology. This is because, in doing so, Yokoto is breaking with the functional and aesthetic position that the social order has demarcated for him. When Yokoto attempts to traverse a crosswalk on his knees and risks being engulfed by the quick rhythms of the traffic, he demonstrates the degree to which this imposition of the wheelchair circumvents accommodating the disabled body in other ways. The situation also shows that the

public sphere is predominantly constructed to conform to the able body; however, if ablebodied people were to acknowledge Yokoto’s grievance and the functional inadequacy of his wheelchair, they would risk having to restructure the public sphere in ways that destabilize able-bodied privilege. The architectural ableism that Yokoto makes apparent is part of the larger project of industrial capitalist culture. As Robert McRuer argues in his essay “Compulsory Able-Bodiedness and Queer/Disabled Existence,” industrial capitalism makes able-bodiedness compulsory because it is structured on the principle that one is “free to sell one’s labour but not free to do anything else, [which] effectively means [one is] free to have an able body but not particularly free to have anything else.”4 People who are unable to produce a certain standard of labour power or whose physical and mental abilities have no commodifiable value have no place in an industrial society. This explains why financial donation and pity are the dominant responses to the Green Lawn Movement demonstrations: spectators understand that people with CP are not able to live independently in the dominant economic system. This also explains why the infrastructure of the city is scripted for the use of an able body: streets, buses, subways, sidewalks, and other avenues of transportation are created for the expediency of the able-bodied, capitalist worker rather than the well-being of the functionally impaired. Ironically, Rancière argues that public infrastructure is also an effective space for the disruption of the normal flows of society. For Rancière, “there is politics most obviously when people come out to demonstrate in the streets.”5 Unfortunately his views also perpetrate a form of ableism by not accounting for the systematic isolation that people with disabilities face. Institutionalization, mobility impairment, social anxiety, and other forms of intellectual disability can all limit disabled people’s access to the public sphere and ability to engage in Rancière’s privileged notion of occupying the streets. Nevertheless, when the members of the Green Lawn Movement do manifest in the public arena, their bodies and their actions produce a spectacle that pow-

erfully contrasts with the prevailing aesthetic order. They stage a visual dissonance between themselves, the ableist architecture, and the circulation of capitalist workers by using public transit without assistive technology or using public spaces as a social interface rather than a means of transportation. They also create an audio-spectacle through their articulation of their cause and reasoning ability via speakerphone. Near the end of the film, Yokoto attempts to stage a solo spectacle by reciting a poem in public. This tactic initially gains an audience but is ultimately interrupted by a police officer, whom Rancière would view as enacting the larger anti-spectacular function of the police. As Peter Hallward states, “rather than solicit a submissive subjective recognition or response, the police dismantle political stages.”6 “You’re bothering people. This is a freak show. Please stop,” the police officer in Sayonara CP says – simultaneously summarizing Yokoto’s political action and liquidating its potential influence. This anti-spectacular attitude can again be linked to the interests of industrial capitalism. As Jonathan Crary’s argues in his essay “Modernizing Vision,” since the advent of industrial capitalism, human vision has been bound up with a “demand for knowledge about the adaptation of a human subject to productive tasks in which optimum attention span was indispensible.”7 Although Crary is specifically discussing the specialization of labour in 19th century factory production, his insights can be applied to the public sphere of contemporary neoliberalism which, as an extension of the workplace, is governed by a similar pressure to minimize sensory distraction. In spite of their disruptions, the members of the Green Lawn Movement do, in various ways in the film, conform to the social order. First of all, while it allows them to survive in society, their acceptance of pity and donations from strangers necessarily consents to the logic of compulsory able-bodied industrial capitalism. Also, despite Yokoto’s rejection of the functional shortcomings of his wheelchair, he still ambivalently states that when he is pushed by an able-bodied person, “Being in a wheelchair is like being attended and protected by angels.” Finally, when Kazuo ventures into


the private home of Yokoto, it becomes apparent that, regardless of the subversiveness of the formation of his family unit, it instantiates the prototype of working class patriarchy. When Yokoto’s wife objects to his continuing participation in the film, the other members of the Green Lawn Movement argue that it is his right as the head of the household to refuse her objections. In doing so, they disavow her political claims and enforce the sexist social order that defines the housewife’s role by submission. All things considered, the members of the Green Lawn Movement in Sayonara CP demonstrate a powerful potential to subvert the dominant aesthetic order. Due to the imagined destabilization that people with CP could enact on the social order, able-bodied people in the film mirror the ancient Roman patrician class by isolating visual stigma, stereotyping, and strategically disavowing the disabled body in order to deny its equal right to being treated as a full citizen. Kazuo’s film showcases how this power dynamic is conditioned by the interests of compulsory able-bodied, industrial capitalism to supress political and architectural claims that disrupt its normal circulation of labour and capital. Nevertheless, by applying Rancière’s notions of aesthetic politics, one can see that people with CP possess a spectacular potential to challenge established modes of accommodating disability and to reiterate the wide range of aesthetic and functional abilities of the disabled body.


Notes 1. Jacques Rancière, Disagreement, trans. Julie Rose (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), 29. 2. Jacques Rancière, Disagreement, 29. 3. Jacques Rancière, Disagreement, 25. 4. Robert McRuer, Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability (New York: New York University Press, 2006), 8. 5. Peter Hallward, “Staging Equality: Rancière’s Theatrocracy and the Limits of Anarchic Equality,” in Jacques Rancière: History, Poitics, Aesthetics, ed. Gabriel Rockhill and Philip Watts (Durham: Duke Unviersity Press, 2009), 147. 6. Ibid. 7. Jonathan Crary, “Modernizing Vision,” in Viewing Positions: Ways of Seeing Film, ed. Linda Williams (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1995), 37.

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