Political modernity in East Asia : religion, nationalism and subversion of imperialism

Ichijo, Atsuko (2019) Political modernity in East Asia : religion, nationalism and subversion of imperialism. In: Shani, Georgio and Kibe, Takashi, (eds.) Religion and nationalism in Asia. Abingdon, U.K. : Routledge. pp. 108-123. (Political Theories in East Asian Context) ISBN 9780367183424


This chapter examines the development of political modernity in East Asia in the early twentieth century through an exploration of the ways in which ideas about political community were produced, used and appropriated by both the imperialists and the colonised. Inspired by the theory of multiple modernities (Eisenstadt 2000), this chapter focuses on the ways in which Asianism was developed and acted upon by Eastern Asian intellectuals to define modernity in their own terms. In particular, the chapter reviews the ways in which various ideas associated with Asianism, articulated within the context of the philosophy of world history by the Kyoto School, were engaged by colonial intellectuals in Taiwan, Korea and China, which represented an exercise of agency and subjectivity on the part of the colonised. These ideas include schemes such as the East Asian Community (東亜協同体) and the East Asia League (東亜連盟). These initiatives clearly were tools of Japanese colonial oppression, but attempts were made by intellectuals in various parts of the Japanese Empire to make use of these ideas in order to resist, challenge and even subvert Japanese imperialism. Although these attempts were ultimately unsuccessful, by examining the ways in which the oppressed and subjugated tried to mobilise the ideas of the oppressor in order to resist and subvert the oppression, the chapter calls for a more agency-centered investigation of the ideas used by the colonised and the oppressed in the unfolding of modernity.

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