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Assimilation’s Racializing Sensibilities

Assimilation’s Racializing Sensibilities

Colonized Koreans as Yobos and the “Yobo-ization” of Expatriate Japanese

(p.81) 4 Assimilation’s Racializing Sensibilities
The Affect of Difference
Todd A. Henry
University of Hawai'i Press

Attention to colonial sensibilities figured centrally in the government-general’s avowed goal to “assimilate” colonized Koreans into the empire. However, this elusive project of cultural incorporation revolved around mutually constitutive definitions of Japanese-ness and Korean-ness that the colonial state promoted but could hardly control in practice. Essentialist discourses of Korean-ness commonly expressed by the racialized epithet yobo demonstrate how Japanese settlers aimed to distinguish themselves and thus justify their privileges. These discourses helped create equally idealized notions of Japanese-ness that the government-general used to measure how far Koreans had been incorporated into the imperial community. Encounters between Japanese settlers and the local population produced anxious debates about so-called yobo-ization. Charges that some settlers were not sufficiently “Japanese” because they embodied attributes of Korean others underscores how the project of colonial assimilation relied upon a multidirectional flow of practical sensibilities which transversed and transgressed the carefully constructed boundaries of ethnicity.

Keywords:   assimilation, yobo, yobo-ization, Japanese settlers, colonial Korea, imperialism, cultural racism, colonial sensibilities

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