Nissan Seminar: Northern Exposures: A View of Japanese History From the Sea of Okhotsk
Convener(s): Dr Natalia Doan and Professor Sho Konishi
Speaker(s): Professor Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Professor Emerita of Japanese History in the College of Asia and Pacific, Australian National University
These seminars will occur live and will not be recorded. Unauthorized recording is strictly prohibited.
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Northern Exposures: A View of Japanese History From the Sea of Okhotsk
In this presentation I shall look at aspects of Japan’s 19th and early 20th century history from the perspective of the Sea of Okhotsk, and particularly from the island of Sakhalin (the southern half of which became the Japanese colony of Karafuto). Focusing on the history of the indigenous peoples of Sakhalin, and particularly on the lives of some prominent Sakhalin Ainu, I argue that a view from the north sheds fresh light on four important aspects of Japanese history. First, it destabilizes the image of Japan as a self-contained ‘island nation’ with boundaries defined by natural geography. Second, it makes us rethink understandings of Edo Period Japan as a ‘closed country’, and of Japan as a nation which began its colonial expansion only after its ‘opening’ to the west in the 1850s. Third, it highlights the fact that the indigenous people colonised by Japan were not simply passive victims of imperialism, but were actors in history, who, despite their numerical and military disadvantages, made their voices heard. And fourth, this ‘history from the north’ creates alternative perspectives for understanding contemporary border disputes between Japan and Russia.
Tessa Morris-Suzuki is Professor Emerita of Japanese History in the College of Asia and Pacific, Australian National University. Her publications include The Past Within Us: Memory, Media History (Verso, 2005), Borderline Japan: Foreign and Frontier Controls in the Postwar Period (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and Japan’s Living Politics: Grassroots Action and the Crises of Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2020).