Organized Panel Session
Manchuria was a laboratory and showcase for Japanese empire-building. Recent scholarship has emphasized the efficiency of policy planning and depicted Manchukuo as a successful training ground for postcolonial bureaucracy in Northeast Asia. This panel finds, however, that imperial policy often derailed, brought unintended consequences, and crumbled from the bottom up. Drawing upon multilingual and multidisciplinary perspectives, the papers re-examine the making of Japanese Manchuria through the intimate experiences of colonial agents and rogue individuals, and the shortcomings of Japan’s imperial institutions.
Minzhao Wang’s analysis of Shengjing Shibao editorials identifies critical junctures in the discourse on local identity. Manchurian identity promoted under the slogans of “Kingly Way” and “Peaceful Paradise” coincided, contradicted, and even compromised war propaganda. Jooyeon Hahm examines a little-known revolutionary woman who transgressed the social, political, and territorial boundaries of empire. Exploring low-profile challenges to Japanese efforts to subdue Communist activities and patrol the Korea-Manchuria border, Hahm accentuates ruptures in rigid surveillance systems. Jing Sun highlights the difficulty of achieving food autarky in Manchuria. Encouraging agricultural migration and rice farming changed local dietary habits, thereby raising the demand for rice in the burgeoning empire. Together, these papers demonstrate that local experiments, encounters, and experiences often ran counter to the intentions of Japan’s imperial planners.