Hostile Natives: Violence in the History of American and Japanese Nativism

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2014-03-20
Authors
McNally, Mark
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Abstract
This paper addresses the critical role of violence in the classification of anti-foreign practices as nativism in Japanese history. The connection with violence was vital to the emergence of nativism’s conceptual birth during the first half of the nineteenth century in the United States. The Americanist, John Higham, has famously argued that the critical distinction between simple anti-foreignism and nativism inheres in their respective levels of hostility, with cases of the latter exceeding a certain threshold that was inclusive of violent acts. Another prominent theorist of nativism, Ralph Linton, de-emphasized this connection between violence and nativism; in fact, Linton broadened the concept of nativism to include the acceptance of foreigner arrivals as well as aspects of their culture, effectively severing the connection between nativism and hostility itself, even its non-violent forms. Japanologists began applying the concept of nativism to their own work by the end of the 1960s, crafting a category of Japanese nativism using a nearly exclusive focus on Kokugaku. The result is a concept of nativism that resembles the work of neither Higham nor Linton, despite the fact that it does emphasize hostility and anti-foreignism but without either notions of cultural borrowing or of violence per se. This paper will reconcile the two major conceptualizations of nativism dominant outside of Japanese studies, arguing that extreme levels of hostility, including violence, should be critical to the ways in which nativism is used and understood by Japanologists. By doing so, their critical gaze will shift away from Kokugaku toward historical episodes that are more befitting of nativism, such as the sonnō-jō’i (revere the emperor, expel the foreigners) movement of late Tokugawa Japan.
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Presented at the Numata Conference in Buddhist Studies / “Violence, Nonviolence, and Japanese Religions: Past, Present, and Future,” held in Honolulu, Hawaii, March 20–21, 2014
Keywords
Japanese nativism, Kokugaku, American nativism, anti-foreignism, xenophobia, sonnō-jō’i (revere the emperor, expel the foreigners) Tokugawa Japan
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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs
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