Organized Panel Session
Official interactions between Japanese and non-Japanese from the 17th to the early 20th centuries often involved deploying differing, even competing understandings of “civilization.” Scholars consistently identify these contacts as performance sites, where officials of one side, in order to display their power, often forced the other to adopt behaviors they regarded as either “civilized” or “barbarian.” At the same time, both sides sought to advantageously frame the meanings of these performances within their own political cultures. The papers in this panel build on existing scholarship by examining how Japanese and non-Japanese officials negotiated, fumbled, and improvised performances of “civilization” designed to produce a range of complex effects in both polities, and which extended well beyond illustrating mere discrepancies in power. Claire Cooper examines Dutch East India Company efforts to formally receive Tokugawa officials in their Nagasaki factory by combining often incongruous European and Asian notions of propriety. Travis Seifman looks at the deployment and reception of supposedly Chinese ritual norms by 17th-19th century Lūchūan (Ryūkyūan) envoys to Japan, which were in fact a mixture of Chinese, Lūchūan, and samurai practices. Viktor Shmagin analyzes an 1813 Russian procession through the city of Hakodate, which the Tokugawa advertised as a display of submission by “barbarians,” while actually treating the Russians with respect reserved for more “civilized” peoples. Finally, Yamamoto Takahiro examines efforts by Konkamakuru, a Kuril Ainu chief in the 1890s, to navigate the demands of a "civilizing" Japanese state while negotiating a subtle balance between their religious identity and national allegiance.