Assimilating SeoulJapanese Rule and the Politics of Public Space in Colonial Korea, 1910–1945

Assimilating SeoulJapanese Rule and the Politics of Public Space in Colonial Korea, 1910–1945

Todd A. Henry

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780520276550

Publisher: University of California Press

Abstract

Assimilating Seoul merges Korean history and Japanese history to uncover interactions obscured by conventional narratives centered on these two nation-states. The first monograph-length study of colonial Seoul in English, this book challenges nationalistic paradigms that still inform much of the research on this important city. Assimilating Seoul offers an alternative, transnational history by treating urban spaces as “contact zones.” Through micro-histories of Shintō festivals, industrial expositions, and hygiene campaigns, I show how the city's residents negotiated official pressures aimed at “assimilating” them. Unlike previous, top-down analyses, my book employs historical ethnography to investigate this organizing principle of Japanese rule as experienced from the bottom up. Although the colonial state did set broad policy goals for the cultural incorporation of Koreans, elite settlers and their subaltern brethren managed to redeploy government initiatives according to their own interests and thereby to reshape the speed and direction of assimilation. This approach also reveals the varied ways in which Koreans of different class and gender backgrounds rearticulated the terms of their incorporation into the Japan's multiethnic empire.