History professor E. Taylor Atkins publishes new book on Japanese views of Korea

E. Taylor Atkins
E. Taylor Atkins

NIU History Professor E. Taylor Atkins has a written a new book that explores the complex history of Japanese colonial and postcolonial interactions with Korea, particularly in matters of cultural policy.

Atkins will deliver a talk on the book – titled Primitive Selves: Koreana in the Japanese Gaze, 1910-1945 (University of California Press) – at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3, at the Thurgood Marshall Gallery in Swen Parsons Hall.

This book focuses on past and present Japanese fascination with Korean culture as he reassesses colonial anthropology, heritage curation, cultural policy and Korean performance art in Japanese mass media culture.

Atkins’s new perspective challenges the prevailing view that imperial Japan demonstrated unrelenting contempt for Koreans through a dogged suppression of Korean culture.

In Atkins’s insightful analysis, the Japanese preoccupation with Koreana provided the empire with a poignant vision of its own past, now lost—including communal living, social solidarity and cultural integrity—which then allowed Japanese to grieve for their former selves. At the same time, the specific objects of Japan’s gaze—folk theater, dances, shamanism, music and material heritage—became emblems of national identity in postcolonial Korea.

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