This book describes how Japan rose to be a world power in a few short
decades. The dominant way of narrating that rise tends to focus on
centers of power, whether the center is the supposed Euro- American
birthplace of modern technoscience and Enlightenment reason or is
understood to be Japan’s westernized metropole, Tokyo. Against this
hegemonic assumption that advanced conceptual and technical forms
of Euro- American and metropolitan origin are the sole causes of mod-
ern development, subalternist postcolonial studies and Marxism—the
two theoretical approaches privileged here—recommend that critical
attention be redirected to human life and labor, especially that inhabit-
ing the margins and peripheries far away from centers of power. Therein
the ontological energy of life and the surpluses stolen from labor (by
capital) can be clearly glimpsed as the engines driving imperial expan-
sion. In this book marginal life and peripheral labor spawned in Japan’s
peripheries in Korea and China will move out of the historiographical
shadows to become starring dramatis personae. As the fleshly container
of life and labor is the body, working bodies, desiring bodies, addicted
bodies, and dying bodies are offered up as evidence for what I call the
peripheral a priori: the spatiotemporal prioritizing of peripheral mar-
ginalia as the primary agents of culturo- economic change, what D. K.
Fieldhouse depicted as the “metropolitan dog wagged by the tail” of
the colonial periphery (cited in Uchida J. 2005, 38). In this study of
Japan’s imperialism, the peripheral tails wagging the dog of the imperial
center are Chinese coolies, Japanese pimps working in China’s treaty
ports, trafficked Japanese women, and poor Korean tenant farmers—
the bodies supplying the vital energy and laboring surplus that mattered
(to) Japan’s imperialism.
The importance of the colonial periphery for empire was a given for
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