Friday, May 13th- Professor Robert Tierney

the Art and Politics of East Asia workshop


Robert Tierney

Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“Anthropology and Literature in Colonial Taiwan”

Friday, May 13th


Judd 313

5835 S. Kimbark Ave. Chicago, IL 60637

(No paper will be circulated for this workshop meeting)


While Western scholars introduced the science of anthropology to Japan in the 1870s, Japanese scholars soon “nationalized” this science and brought it to bear on the aboriginal population of Taiwan, the first overseas field in which they could work. As a genre of writing about primitive societies, anthropology offered a model that other writers used to explore the cultures of exotic societies. In this paper, I study the relationship of anthropology and literature through a case study of the interaction between the writer Satō Haruo, who traveled to Taiwan in 1920, and the anthropologist Mori Ushinosuke.  In 1923, Satō wrote Machō (Demon Bird), a short work based on a passage from an ethnographic study by Mori.  The narrator of “Demon Bird” impersonates an anthropologist who is studying an episode of persecution in an unnamed barbarian village and attempting to explain their customs to his civilized audience.  At the same time, the story he tells is an allegory about Japanese persecution of Koreans during the Great Kanto Earthquake.  “Demon Bird” uncovers unexpected links between colony and metropolis and is, at one and the same time, both a deconstruction of colonial anthropology and an ethnographic critique of the Japanese empire.

This workshop is sponsored by the Center for East Asian Studies and the Council on Advanced Studies in the Humanities. Persons who believe they may need assistance to participate fully, please contact the coordinator in advance at:


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