Intimate Empire

Collaboration and Colonial Modernity in Korea and Japan

Intimate Empire

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 41 illustrations Published: June 2015

Asian Studies > East Asia, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

In Intimate Empire Nayoung Aimee Kwon examines intimate cultural encounters between Korea and Japan during the colonial era and their postcolonial disavowal. After the Japanese empire’s collapse in 1945, new nation-centered histories in Korea and Japan actively erased these once ubiquitous cultural interactions that neither side wanted to remember.  Kwon reconsiders these imperial encounters and their contested legacies through the rise and fall of Japanese-language literature and other cultural exchanges between Korean and Japanese writers and artists in the Japanese empire. The contrast between the prominence of these and other forums of colonial-era cultural collaboration between the colonizers and the colonized, and their denial in divided national narrations during the postcolonial aftermath, offers insights into the paradoxical nature of colonial collaboration, which Kwon characterizes as embodying desire and intimacy with violence and coercion. Through the case study of the formation and repression of imperial subjects between Korea and Japan, Kwon considers the imbrications of colonialism and modernity and the entwined legacies of colonial and Cold War histories in the Asia-Pacific more broadly.


"Besides many compelling analyses and arguments made in Intimate Empire, plentiful visual materials provide us a fascinating glimpse into the cultural fields in the empire.... it is a great contribution to the scholarship on colonial culture and imperialism for its exemplary handling of archives and its succinct arguments made based on comparative readings of texts. It is an essential text for researchers of colonial literature, transcultural colonial exchange, cultural fields in wartime Japan, and translation." — Jooyeon Rhee, Acta Koreana

"Intimate Empire is a most welcome addition to transcultural scholarship on East Asian literatures and cultures and sets an excellent example for future research on imperialism in East Asia and well beyond." — Karen Thornber, Pacific Affairs

"Intimate Empire establishes critical questions for historians to ponder, beginning with: Who writes the empire? How does the language they use matter? Kwon has demonstrated many pathways into, as well as offered new and alternate routes for, future discovery." — Alexis Dudden, American Historical Review

"Nayoung Aimee Kwon’s examination of Korean authors during the Japanese imperial period is a richly theorized, sensitive, and engaging work of literary and colonial history." — Denis Gainty, History: Reviews of New Books

"Kwon's book will become an instant classic of the postcolonial theory approach to colonial Korea's literary scene." — Janet Poole, Journal of Asian Studies

"Intimate Empire deepens our understanding of the contradictory characteristic of assimilation policy through several well-researched and thoughtfully argued examples of Korean-Japanese colonial era interactions." — Mark E. Caprio, Journal of Japanese Studies

"Intimate Empire is a pioneering study of the Japanese (and Korean) language cultural productions by ethnic Koreans from the empire's expansionist era during the Asia-Pacific war. Nayoung Aimee Kwon's intervention enables us to rethink the spaces of complex resistance, vexed co-optation and accommodating governmentalities opened up by these texts that trouble the received notions of ethnonational boundaries between postcolonial Korea and postimperial Japan. Staking out thought-provoking problematics and excavating new materials, analyzed by Kwon with exceptional care, nuance, and theoretical sophistication, Intimate Empire is a major step forward in transnational Asian studies."
  — Jin-kyung Lee, author of Service Economies: Militarism, Sex Work, and Migrant Labor in South Korea

"Nayoung Aimee Kwon's Intimate Empire is a breakthrough in Korean and Japanese Studies. The book has a dual focus: one is the contested colonial encounter between Korean and Japanese intellectuals in the Japanese Empire; the other is postcolonial power in which minority intellectuals work in the United States. Clearly it is an innovative type of comparative study of imperialisms both past and present."
  — Naoki Sakai, author of Translation and Subjectivity: On 'Japan' and Cultural Nationalism

"Impressively researched and brilliantly crafted, this is a landmark study of cultural production under Japanese colonialism that is sure to create many big waves across Korean and Japanese studies and which should be read by everyone with an interest in the antinomies and conundrums of colonial modernity throughout the world. Eschewing the conventional nationalist binary of 'collaboration' versus 'resistance,' Nayoung Aimee Kwon introduces the third term of 'intimacy,' and shows that an effective postcolonial critique must interrogate this disavowed and unspeakable zone."
  — Takashi Fujitani, author of Race for Empire: Koreans as Japanese and Japanese as Americans during World War II


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Nayoung Aimee Kwon is Andrew W. Mellon Assistant Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix

On Naming, Romanization, and Translations  xiii

1. Colonial Modernity and the Conundrum of Representation  1

2. Translating Korean Literature  17

3. A Minor Writer  41

4. Into the Light  59

5. Colonial Abject  80

6. Performing Colonial Kitsch  99

7. Overhearing Transcolonial Roundtables  131

8. Turning Local  154

9. Forgetting Manchurian Memories  174

10. Paradox of Postcoloniality  195

Notes  213

Bibliography  247

Index  263
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5925-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5910-4
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