2015 Sophia Symposium

Empire and Aftermath: New Perspectives on the Legacies of the Japanese Empire

Seio NAKAJIMA (Waseda University)

“Cosmopolitan Dream, Colonial Hegemony: The Manchurian Motion Picture Corporation and the Production of My Nightingale (1943)”

This paper contributes to the emerging sociological research on cosmopolitanism by presenting a historical and institutional analysis of the production (and to a lesser extent reception) of an arguably “cosmopolitan” film, My Nightingale (Watashi no uguisu, dir. Shimazu Yasujiro, 1943), produced at the height of Japan’s ethnic-nationalist period during the Second World War. I ask the following three key research questions. First, which aspects, if any, of the film text entail cosmopolitanism? Secondly, how and why did the possibly cosmopolitan aspects of the film text emerge under the existence of ethnic-nationalist policies, institutions, attitudes, and behavior in the Japanese colonial empire? Thirdly, what implications does this case study have on the ongoing debates on cosmopolitanism? By providing answers to these questions, I argue that ahistorical, normative call for cosmopolitanism may hinder our grasp of the possibility that some claims of cosmopolitanism entail the rationality of narrow ethnocentric nationalism. As a historical hindsight, it is easy to dismiss Manchuria’s slogan of gozoku kyōwa (peaceful co-existence of the five nationalities) and ōdo rakudo (heavenly place of virtuous rule) as simple political propaganda. But it may also be the case that this apparently cosmopolitan justification might have strengthened the repressiveness and discrimination of the Japanese colonial rule in Manchuria. In other words, I contend that the case study of the Manchurian Motion Picture Corporation and the production of My Nightingale suggests the possible co-existence of “cosmopolitan dream” and “colonial hegemony.”