Accepted paper:

The Changing Shape of Japan: 'integral territory' and remapping the sovereign body


Edward Boyle (Kyushu University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will analyze the increasing emphasis being placed upon the notion of 'integral territory' in homogenizing notions of territory mobilized within Japan's regional territorial disputes and contextualize this transformation in the shape of Japan on the map.

Paper long abstract:

Immediate post-Cold War optimism regarding a resolution of Japan's Northern Territories issue with Russia seems a lifetime ago. Rather, over the past five years, the Japanese government has made concerted efforts to attempt to homogenize the notion of territory deployed by Japan in her disputes with Korea and China, as well as with Russia. Japan has increasingly sought to make use of the notion of 'integral territory' in order to assert that what, for the majority of the Cold War, were understood as competing claims over islands should now be interpreted as disputes over vast expanses of maritime territory, the outcomes of which will literally shape Japan in the future. The successful prosecution of these disputes is presented as being absolutely essential to the maintenance of Japan as a sovereign nation in the twenty-first century. The understanding being promoted by the Abe government is now coming to shape these territorial disputes in not only Japan, but increasingly in China and South Korea as well. The notion of 'integral territory' is being utilized in order to transform not only how Russia, South Korea, China and Taiwan are engaged with, but how these disputes are popularly interpreted, and is a product of the changing nature of national territory under the impact of UNCLOS and Abe's hawkish stance on security. It also, though, reflects the national state's adoption and encouragement of local activism. Increasingly, local commemoration of the issue has come to be reflected by the center, further homogenizing all of these territorial disputes under the notion of 'integral territory'. The concept of 'integral territory' is therefore significant in demonstrating both the inherent flexibility of the nation's notions of sovereignty and territorial fixity, upon which the state grounds its authority, and the connections between the putative political center of the nation and its localities over the negotiation and definition of how the body of the nation is commemorated and celebrated in and for the present. This paper will trace the transformation in Japan on the map and contextualize such changes within the dynamic environment provided by both domestic and regional politics.

panel S9_11
Approaches to identity and foreign policy: heritage, territory and repertoires