Mobilizing After the Fall of Empire: Decolonization Across Asia

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Mobilizing After the Fall of Empire: Decolonization Across Asia
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Alyssa Park, University of Iowa, United States (organizer, presenter, chair)
Nicholas Lambrecht, Osaka University, Japan (presenter)
Matthew Augustine, Kyushu University, Japan (presenter)
Chien-Wen Kung, National University of Singapore, Singapore (presenter)
Els van Dongen, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (presenter)
Mark Caprio, Rikkyo University, Japan (discussant)


At the end of the Second World War, newly sovereign states sprang up from the rubble of fallen empires throughout Asia. Their postcolonial trajectories were diverse. Many countries descended into violent civil wars and ideological battles for legitimacy, contended with new occupiers, or witnessed the mass movements of millions. In Japan, demilitarized by Allied Forces, relative peace created space for introspection on identity and nation. This panel brings together such diverse perspectives and experiences of decolonization in Asia through the common thread of “mobilization”—of peoples, of categories of identification, of ideological loyalties and war across borders. The papers emphasize the need to investigate the immediate aftermath of empire (1945-55), a period which is mostly forgotten in historiographies that tend to focus on the rise of empire until 1945 and the great-power politics of the Cold War. This panel refocuses attention on interactions and connections forged inside and between Asian countries, arguing that such an intra-Asia perspective is necessary to understand the lingering effects of colonization still visible in Asia today.

Nicholas Lambrecht explores themes of “return” in literature by Japanese repatriates from Korea and Manchuria, while Alyssa Park examines the categories and logistics of repatriating Koreans back to Korea. Matthew Augustine follows by investigating “renationalization” and identity documents in Taiwan and Chien-Wen Kung by analyzing the proxy civil war that ensued among Chinese communists, nationalists, and authorities in the Philippines. Finally, Els van Dongen examines the return and education of diasporic Chinese students from Southeast Asia to the PRC.