Manchukuo, Race, and the Japanese Resignification of Chinese Walled Cities

Japanese Art @ UBC

Kari Shepherdson-Scott is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke
University. She is currently a visiting scholar at the University of British Columbia while she finishes her dissertation “Utopia/Dystopia: Japan’s Image of the Manchurian Ideal.” Manchukuo.

This paper investigates the recoding of old, walled, Chinese towns in relationship to new urban spaces such as Xinjing and Mukden. Japanese planners developed these city spaces in the puppet state of Manchukuo during the 1930s and early 1940s. Using tourist literature and imagery featured in Manshû Graph, a monthly magazine published by the Japanese-run South Manchuria Railway Company (SMRC), I discuss the transformation of these spaces from once-defensive, cultural signifiers in northeast China into contained sites where (it was advertised) Japanese tourists could see Chinese and Manchu life and culture on display. I argue that the city wall, separating the old town from the newly constructed, modern urban spaces of the SMRC Zones, contributed to the colonial domination of Sino-Manchurian inhabitants in two ways: as a tool for scopic domination; as a screen which facilitated the material separation of spaces intended for Japanese occupation and those which contained the exoticized spectacle of a racial/ethnic Other.

Co-Sponsored by the Department of Asian Studies and the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory.