Looking for Empires: Japanese Colonialism and the Comparative Gaze
This article surveys trends in recent English-language studies of Japanese imperialism and colonialism. Anglophone scholarship on comparative Japanese colonialism has shifted approaches in recent years. The early generation of comparative scholarship emphasized inter-imperial and inter-regional comparison. Newer scholarship builds comparative categories from the grounded analysis of liminal and transgressive subjects. Overall, the field increasingly represents the Japanese empire not as a singular phenomenon or a collection of distinct colony-metropole relationships. Instead, the field approaches the study of colonialism in the Japanese empire as an act of untangling the threads that made, and continue to make up, the many Japanese empires. The most exciting comparative work is that which does not explicitly define itself as comparative at all, yet which forces the field to re-evaluate the possibilities and limits of producing knowledge through comparison.