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Space and temporality - Aso

Juliane Aso (FU Berlin) Space and Temporality in the Japanese Empire

Juliane Aso (FU Berlin)

Space and Temporality in the Japanese Empire


The understanding and use of time in Japan did not only order daily life but regions and the perception of other peoples. Geography was - and still is - not concerned about space but it can be a means of structuring time as well.

By analyzing geography textbooks that were used in primary schools for girls and boys during 1905 and 1945 I would like to contribute to ‘timescapes in Japan’ with an approach that combines the theory of Foucaults discourse analyses and visual culture. I will also refer to Tessa Morris-Suzuki who has already demonstrated how time and space are linked to the process of creating a nation and the discussions in the field of anthropology. The works of Johannes Fabian and Elizabeth Edwards have shown how anthropologists and anthropometric pictures place different peoples in different times by creating a temporal unevenness. 

Geography textbooks contributed to the making of modern subjects by giving the Japanese territory its boundaries and placing it in a modern time as well. Different regions could belong to different times. Inner Japan (naichi) was located in a present and modern time contrary to its colonies. One indicator for a temporal unevenness is the pictures of indigenous people and landscapes that accompany the textual discourse in the textbooks. The time manipulation becomes clearer when looking at the different Japanese colonies. Kwangtung that served as a gateway to Manchuria symbolized the future of Japan whereas Nan’yō was placed in a continuous past. Although inner Japan and its colonies belonged to the same territory a hierarchy was created by giving each region a different time. Time became therefore a political means to show that Japan was a modern state like the Western ones which had the right to bring civilization to the regions belonging to past but also to bring a new future back to Japan.