Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan
University of California Press 2017
Kate McDonald‘s Placing Empire: Travel and the Social Imagination in Imperial Japan (University of California Press, 2017) is a thoughtful and provocative study of the spatial politics of Japanese imperialism. McDonald’s work on Japanese travel and tourism to Korea, Manchuria, and Taiwan traces the changing political valences of space and the spatial order of the Japanese empire from the late nineteenth century into the postwar occupation years. Beginning with the insight that the spatialization of empire was integral to its social imaginary, McDonald explores space as a mechanism for the naturalization and reproduction of uneven structures of rule. McDonald is attentive to the changing meanings of space as the context of empire shifted after World War I, identifying the spatial politics of pre-1918 Japan as a “geography of civilization” (à la the high imperialist project of the mission civilisatrice) and of post-1918 Japan as a more ethnographic “geography of pluralism.” This shift paralleled and reflected the transition of empires worldwide from a context of territorial acquisition to territorial maintenance.