Paul D. Barclay’s Outcast of Empire. Japan’s Rule on Taiwan’s “Savage Border,” 1874–1945 explores the understudied consequences of Japan colonialism over Taiwan’s indigenous population. Using micro and macro-historical perspectives, alongside Japanese and Chinese archives, Barclay offers a decisive contribution to the study of Taiwan indigenous peoples, as well as to the analysis of colonial mechanisms. Barclay’s arguments are grounded in the entwinement of international relations, “high velocity capitalism” and the historical process of indigenization, which are still relevant in today’s world. As stated by Barclay, “today’s international system […] is a product of nation-state-sponsored industrial capitalism’s global impact as an integrative and disintegrative force” (p. 11).
The book’s very dense introduction (pp. 1–40) describes the theoretical framework adopted throughout the volume, following the work of Jane Burbank, Frederick Cooper and Lauren Benton for whom “empires are best understood as successors to other empires and that postcolonialism did not resolve itself into a world of sovereign nation-states based on former colonial boundaries” (p. 13). Barclay makes also an extensive use of Michel Foucault’s understanding of the shift from a society of punishment to a society of discipline to explain Japan’s violent colonial rule over the Taiwanese indigenous peoples, and by contrast the failure of the Qing dynasty for whom the indigenes “lived below and beyond [its] centralized administrative grid” (p. 20).
Organized into two main parts (“The anatomy of a rebellion” and “Indigenous modernity”) with two chapters each, the book provides a detailed account of the instruments of governmentality used by the Japanese in their administration of Taiwanese indigenous territories. The author’s tendency of going back and forth in history doesn’t facilitate the comprehension for readers without previous knowledge of the political history of Taiwan, but the very precise accounts of Japanese encounters with the indigenous peoples gives a very vivid image of this era. The author’s extensive use of illustrations, maps, postcards, and photographic archives is in this case exemplary.
One of Barclay’s main arguments revolve around the explanation of the “Wushe Incident” of 1930, when 300 Sediq men led by Mona Ludao killed 134 Japanese nationals, in retaliation for the “Yoshimura beating incident” – an altercation between Tadao Mona and the Japanese patrolman Yoshimura Katsumi, who refused publicly to share a drink with the Sediq man. The Japanese forces “responded with genocidal fury” (p. 1), killing more than 1,000 men, women and children, which came to be known as the “Wushe Incident”. To understand this incident, Barclay shows how the Japanese changed their diplomatic policies toward the indigenes, from a “wet diplomacy” – “conjoined drinking (gōin), which entailed contact with an interlocutor saliva” (p. 44) – used by both the Chinese settlers and the Japanese colonial administration at first, to a “scorched earth” policy, which encapsulated the indigene territories. This shift in governing Taiwan’s indigenous border can also be seen in the linguistic relations between the Japanese colonizers and the indigenous population. At first, as the Han Chinese before them, the Japanese colonizers relied on local brokers fluent in Mandarin to work with Japanese translators as well as intermarriage between aborigine women and Japanese officials. They moved away from these “wet” practices to promote Japanese education programs targeting young aborigines. If Japanese education for Han children was “aimed at creating ‘citizens’ (kokumin)”, the approach to indigenous education “would create not fellow nationals but rather docile and useful subjects” (p. 149).
Barclay’s most innovative insights concerns the construction of an indigenous ethnic identity through cultural reification, trade, and economic relations with the Japanese (and most notably by the red textiles produced in certain indigenous territories). Barclay shows very precisely how material culture, museography, and photography participated in the construction of an “authentic” aborigine identity, which still has important implications today – fostering for instance the sentiment that “inauthentic” or “assimilated” indigenous peoples “should ipso facto lose rights or privileges” (p. 188). The last chapter analyzes how Japanese officials and academics produced a specific knowledge on Taiwan indigenous people, comforting their power on indigenous land – with the production of maps and what Barclay calls indigenous “second-order geobodies” – and indigenous bodies, using racial criteria provided by visual anthropologists and academics. Following here the footsteps of James C. Scott, Barclay’s essential contribution to the study of ethnic formation in Taiwan is to show that indigenes still had their agency, using and appropriating the very identities the Japanese contributed to create.
Outcast of Empire fills an important gap in the English scientific literature on the Japanese colonization of Taiwan by focusing on indigenous people and the way the Japanese administration shifted its governance of the Taiwanese “border” territories. The use of a Foucauldian theoretical framework allows Barclay to shed light on how the Japanese governmental approach shifted from punishment to discipline, using archives and photographic evidences. However, the sole focus on Discipline and Punish renders sometimes the argument too static, while the reference to Foucault’s later works, including Security, Territory, Population and other lectures at the Collège de France, would have help complexify the Japanese apparent governmentality shift. While the last part of the book provides very interesting insights on the use of visual ethnography and postcards by the Japanese colonial administration, the author makes an extensive use of the photography, postcards and other visual documents produced by the Japanese throughout the book, without replacing these works in their not unproblematic colonial context –they nevertheless are reflecting the colonizer’s gaze. The chronological boundaries of the book (1874–1945) could also have been justified more clearly, since the author mobilizes archives from the American diplomat Charles Le Gendre and the Rover incident of 1867 – involving an American shipwreck on Taiwan’s south cape – , which occurred way before the official date of the Japanese colonization of Taiwan in 1895. At the same time, very few archives used in the book are posterior to 1905, which lead the reader to wonder what are the implications of Japanese rule over indigenous territories after 1930 and the Wushe incident.
Paul Barclay’s work is indisputably a major scientific contribution to our understanding of Japanese colonization in Taiwan and its violence against the indigenes as well as the history of Taiwan’s indigenous population. And his work invites future studies that would compare the Taiwan’s case to other colonial contexts in Asia – Korea or Manchuria for instance – and the world.