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Empire and Racialization: Reinterpreting Japan's Pan-Asianism from a Du Boisian Perspective

Global Historical Sociology of Race and Racism

ISBN: 978-1-80117-219-6, eISBN: 978-1-80117-218-9

Publication date: 30 September 2021


Du Bois's interest in the Japanese empire points us in the direction of examining non-Western imperial policies and discourses and how they relate to racialization. For Du Bois, Japan was an exemplar of a nonwhite empire. This chapter reconstructs a Du Boisian conception of race that identifies it closely with ethnicity, against the belief that the African-American intellectual held on to a merely biological conception of race. I argue that his thought evolved towards a social-construction approach in which race must be understood historically and in particular global contexts. By analyzing Japan's policies and discourses around the boundaries of the Japanese, I explicate how Japan carried out a process of self-racialization owing to its dialectical relationship with the West. It also racialized its colonial subjects in a process of in-group delineation according to Japan's imperial imperatives. The case of the Japanese empire demonstrates how a global/transnational approach to racialization is valuable. It also evinces how white supremacy and universalism are not the only logics of imperialism. Moreover, it shows that Du Bois believed white supremacy could be transcended. However, Du Bois was too idealistic about Japan's empire, ignoring how oppressive nonwhite imperial rulers can be toward their subjects even when there are phenotypical similarities between them.



Suzuki, K. (2021), "Empire and Racialization: Reinterpreting Japan's Pan-Asianism from a Du Boisian Perspective", White, A.I.R. and Quisumbing King, K. (Ed.) Global Historical Sociology of Race and Racism (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 38), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 23-54.



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