The politics of locating violence: on the Japanese nationalist critique of American racism after the First World War

by Steffen Rimner

15 Jun 2020
Journal of the British Academy
18 (pp. 73-90)

Abstract: This article addresses the process of locating global violence as a project of politicisation through the example of early Japanese-sponsored critiques of American racism. Forged in the First World War, anti-racist critiques carved out a new space for global political debate, consciously defying and counteracting conventional geographies of liberal international influence from the West to ‘the rest’. Offering an alternative to Atlantic critiques of Japanese social defects, critics mobilised by the Japanese Kokuryūkai took aim at racism as an essential defect of American society and worldviews. The article probes to what degree the exposure of violence triggered coalitions of critique between Japanese diagnosticians and African-American victims while simultaneously spurring the radical perception of Asian social life as ethically and spiritually superior to liberalism. As such, the publicity of anti-racism invites fresh avenues of transnational, less US-centric history to identify long-term repercussions of racism at the intersection of local social abuse and global politicisation.

Keywords: Anti-racism, First World War, global history, Japan, Kokuryūkai (Black Dragon Society), lynching, nationalism, protest, racial equality, racism, United States, violence.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 8, supplementary issue 3 (Memories of Violence).

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