Unit 1: Theorizing Empire
Before we begin what will be a largely chronological investigation of Japan's Empire, we will devote a week to examining what exactly we mean when we say "empire," "imperialism," and "colonialism." While establishing concrete, uncontested definitions of each of these terms might ultimately elude us, we will aim to come away from our discussion with a clear sense of key terms that will be crucial throughout the semester.
We have at least two important tasks as we wrestle with these definitions. First, we need to consider the motivations for – and indeed the very nature of – empire building. Why, in other words, do some seek to exert power over others? And for what kind of gain? Second, we will compare Japan's particular empire of the late-nineteenth and twentieth-century with other instances of empire across time and space. Are ancient and modern empires essentially different, and if so, why? And how do Japan's imperial ventures stack up against Britain's – or perhaps America's?
Unless otherwise noted, items listed under each day should be completed before the class it is assigned. For example, on day 2 (a Thursday), the assignment listed should be completed before class on Thursday.
Day 2 (Thu 9/8): Foundational theories of imperialism
The following items are due before class on Thursday:
(1) View Crash Course World History #35: “Imperialism” (13:45). See embedded link to right.
(2) Read Patrick Wolfe, “History and Imperialism: A Century of Theory, from Marx to Postcolonialism,” American Historical Review 102:2 (1997): 388-97. Note: Please stop reading at the spaced paragraph break on page 397. Article can be accessed via link to JSTOR. While reading Wolfe, consider:
Day 3 (Fri 9/9): "They must be represented": Culture and imperialism
Read Patrick Wolfe, “History and Imperialism: A Century of Theory, from Marx to Postcolonialism,” American Historical Review 102:2 (1997): 408-418. Note: this is another 10-page selection from the same article assigned the previous night. For this reading, start from the middle of the paragraph with the sentence that begins "Edward W. Said's Orientalism…". While reading Wolfe, consider:
- What might Wolfe (paraphrasing Said) mean when he introduces the idea that "discourse produces realities"? Can you think of an example of how this might be true?
- How did imperialism shape Western – not just colonial – culture and society?
- In what sense might Europe be "the subject of history"? What might an alternative look like?
- Identify one way gender might provide insight on the practice of imperialism.
Day 4 (Mon 9/12): Empire and Japan
(1) View Crash Course World History #213: “Asian Responses to Imperialism” (12:54). See embedded link to right.
(2) Read W. G. Beasley, “Explanations of Imperialism” in Japanese Imperialism, 1894–1945 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 1–13. Follow link to download PDF. While reading Beasley, consider:
Day 5 (Wed 9/14): Assessment
To prepare for our first assessment, please review your notes on the week's homework assignments.