By Mark Driscoll
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Additional info for Absolute erotic, absolute grotesque : the living, dead, and undead in Japan’s imperialism, 1895-1945
Japanese dreams of empire in Asia built on the backs of cheap coolie labor surfaced even before the consolidation of its modern nation-state in 1868. In London in 1862 the Satsuma diplomat Godai Tomoatsu was reported to have “asked about the possibility of using Chinese and Indian laborers under Japanese direction to establish an East Asian center of industrial economic power” (Jansen 1965, 59–60). This wish was fulfilled immediately after the treaty ending the Russo-Japanese War was signed in New Hampshire on 5 September 1905.
While the second negation contradictorily confirms the relation with the ethnocultural group (a confirmation that is also an immunological guarding against), it impels a leap beyond this particular into the universal genus (rui ), embodied for Tanabe in Japan’s multiethnic empire. Like the individual, the particularistic group achieves its contradictory identity only by its negative belonging to the universal empire. As Japan’s empire was extending rapidly from Korea to Manchukuo and then into northern and central China, imperialists were terrified of decolonial nationalisms in the outer circle, and Tanabe attempted a philosophical recommendation of why Korean, Taiwanese, and Manchukuoan Chinese should reject their particularized species for self-conscious membership in the universality of Japan’s empire (Sakai N.
Miki’s invocation of the totem in 1938, simultaneous with the construction of the imperialistic East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, was inspired by Tanabe Hajime (1885–1962), his teacher in philosophy at Kyoto University and the most important philosopher in Japan during the 1930s and 1940s. In his magnum opus, Shu no Ronri (The Logic of Species), Tanabe deployed totemism to open his theory of “absolute dialectics” (zettai benshōhō). Building on the Aristotelian and Hegelian tripartite schema of individuum (ko), particular species (shu), and universal genus (rui ), he installed a vertically antagonistic relation between individuals and their species, a negativity that is mediated by universality.