Eiji Oguma, professor of Faculty of Policy Management in Keio University
The issue of racial and ethnic identities has become critical again in the world. However, we should examine specific historical context of each society before assuming concrete existence of race and ethnic group and imposing European/American categorization framework to every part in the world.
Race and ethnicity are frameworks constructed historically and politically. Racial or ethnic category can be constructed and imposed in the absence of differences in physical characteristics or language. On the other hand, sometimes even powerful groups might not be constructed as a separate category by terms of race or ethnicity. It depends on political/historical context whether these categories are constructed. Hence, each society has within its political/historical context invented and developed their own terms and framework to construct particular categories, such as for example German Volk, which, with all its connotations is hard to translate into English.
In this lecture, I would like to examine the development of the Japanese term Minzoku which was invented within the political context of a modernizing Japan, rather than as the translation of a European concept. Then I will describe how this framework, based on the notion of Minzoku shaped national identity of Japan, how the identity had changed along with the expansion and shrinkage of Japanese territory, how the term spread to China as Minzú and to Korea as Minjog based on the same combination of Chinese characters, and how it affected the nationalism and governmental policy of contemporary Japan.
The goal of this lecture is understanding concerning the function of social construction of ethnicity in a society in East Asia. The audience would be able to learn about East Asian history from the standpoint of sociological/comparative analysis.