Organized Panel Session
Japan’s Imperial Underworlds explores modern Sino-Japanese relations through the long-forgotten histories of people who moved, the relationships they created, and the anxieties they provoked in the spatial and social borderlands between Japan and China from the 1860s to the 1940s. Japan’s imbrication in new geopolitical structures and spatial flows engendered forms of intimacy that were seen as problematic, or even horrific, because they transgressed notions of territory marked by stable, defensible borders and notions of place marked by distinct identities and social roles. Yet rather than see those borders and roles as already established and thus violated, I argue that transgressive intimacies--child trafficking, interethnic marriage migration, travel and adventure writing, and piracy--were central to the elaboration of territoriality and spatial imaginaries in the imperial era and have continued to inform Japanese views of China in the present. In this presentation, I draw on this research to demonstrate (1) how attention to differently embodied mobilities compels us to reassess the spatial assumptions that have informed the study of modern Japan and Japanese empire; and (2) that this multi-scalar reassessment necessitates closer attention to the ongoing importance of the Sinosphere--defined as a system of flows of people and things on which China exercised a gravitational pull, but which were not necessarily controlled by a political entity or sovereign state called China--in shaping Japan's distinctive regional situation.