Past Event

CANCELED: Identification Documents and Human Mobility in the Japanese Empire

April 9, 2021
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
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Takahiro Yamamoto, Assistant Professor of Cultural Economic History, Heidelberg Centre for Transcultural Studies, University of Heidelberg Martin Dusinberre, Professor, University of Zurich

Discussant: David Ambaras, Professor, Department of History, North Carolina State University

Moderated by: Paul Kreitman, Assistant Professor of Japanese History, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University

By looking at the development of the passport system in Japan and its overseas territories, this paper argues that the rise of passports into the key component of global mobility control in the early twentieth century owed as much to colonialism as nationalism. The colonial empires’ urge to mobilize and differentiate peoples of various status led to the emergence of what I call the paper centrifuge, whereby the empire's subjects were placed into different categories such as diplomatic officials, immigrant passport holders, non-immigrant passport holders, colonial subjects in the metropole, and undocumented travellers. The paper they were made to carry (or supposed to have carried) conditioned the spatial extent of their mobility and their experiences within and outside the Japanese empire. Through examining how Japanese administrators attempted to regulate mobility by issuing identification papers as well as how people utilized the system for the pursuit of their interests, the article contributes to the understanding of migration and border control in East Asia and the Pacific.

This event is organized by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University.

Contact Information

Athina Fontenot