Disciplining Ethnicity and Ainu Women’s Sexual Subjectivity in Early Colonial Hokkaido
Modernist historiography has long bracketed Ezo (present-day Hokkaido) and Okinawa as internal colonies, conventionally dismissing them from discussions of Japan’s imperial project. This historical perspective rationalizes and codifies the narrative that Hokkaido especially is an inherent, inalienable part of Japanese territory. However, this version of history begins to fall apart when we take account of the interrelations between Ainu women and ethnic Japanese men (wajin). The interpellation of Ainu women as objects of sexual desire established the intimate frontiers of Japan’s modernist recasting of Ezo as a distinctly Japanese imperial zone long before its political and administrative incorporation into the Japanese nation-state. The sexual subjectivity of these women in turn provides a different perspective revealing how Japan’s territorial expansion and its nascent imperialism was charted through the terrain of Ainu women’s bodies, and demonstrating how sexual intimacy and sexual violence are corollaries of political and physical power.
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