In my review of this book by Dr. Alexis Dudden, I will present the main argument of the book and the topics covered in each chapter. I will clearly outline the main point of each chapter by analyzing each chapter on its own. To do this I have arranged my work in in three main parts. The first part shows what the book is all about and what message it passes across to the reader. The second part is analyzing the book, to answer whether the chapters actually support the book's argument or not. The last part is dedicated to my own evaluation of the book, its usefulness to a reader giving its positive aspects and also the negative ones. The book examines the discursive aspects of Japan's annexation of Korea, placing particular attention to the international legitimacy of that period. It traces the construction and dispersion of terms that are too often considered Trans historical. Historians have paid less attention to the internal discourses that arose as Japan's leaders described the country anew. To neglect these discourses is to ignore a critical element.
Writing treaties and conducting diplomacy was not new in Meiji Japan but executing such transactions in the language of international law required new techniques. This was deemed necessary so as not to be seen as barbaric by the rest of the world. Japan's state policy makers and leaders realized that if they were to gain full legitimacy for Japan as a colonizing nation they needed to define their policies in mutually referential terms of law as per the international standards then. From the book, it is clear that only those who followed the European-style i.e. those countries that followed the European culture from governance to lifestyle to trade, were permitted, so to speak, to be colonial masters.
The main argument of the book as presented by Dr. Dudden is that Japan mastered and sometimes misused western terms for international law to fit the legality principle of diplomacy in the international arena. Using their mastery, they were able to make their annexation of Korea 'legal' by international terms. Japan won the support of much of the west (excluding Russia whom they had been in conflict with) and was by and large accepted as the legal colonizers of Korea (Dudden 115).
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The book has been divided into 5 chapters, each laying focus to a specific area of interest but all working in uniformity to lead to the actualization and realization of the author's message.
Chapter one, the topic being illegal Korea, describes the global atmosphere that declared Japan the legal ruler of Korea. The hostility, then, towards Korea prompted Japan to re-vitalize her discourse so as to be duly accepted by the rest of the world. Korea was shut out from the world as seen during The Hague conference where she sent three delegates but they were turned back.
Chapter two, international terms of engagement, frames the significance of the discourse of international law with a brief intellectual history of how its terms became Japanese. It gives insights to h the legal terms of law at that time.
Chapter three, vocabulary of power, brings together these discussions by analyzing how Meiji Japan's leaders embedded this discourse into legal precedent for Japan. This was a new beginning for the Japanese people, they themselves have been colonized. Being colonial masters was a mark or imprint in the history of the world.
Chapter four, voices of dissent, considers how the Meiji government penalized critics at home and abroad when their understandings challenged state definition of terms. Not many were very pleased with the Japanese government's misuse of terms to aid their work of colonization. The government was met with heavy critic both internally and externally. This chapter focuses on how those dissidents were dealt with.
Chapter five, mission legatrice, analyses the relationship between perceptions of Japan as a legal nation and as a colonial master. Each of these chapters clearly brings out the message of the author from the first one to the last one. Her index and bibliography are also well documented and do come in handy when using them for citations that Dr. Dudden has quoted in her work.
From my own reading and evaluation of the book and the author herself, Dr. Dudden knows the subject extremely well. She is well versed in Japanese history and she makes her points clearly in each chapter. I would like to suggest this book for anyone interested in learning about Japanese or Korean history. It is an eye opener into Asian worlds in the early 20th century. Scholars of history would be greatly entertained by this book as they would find it very resourceful. It shows how a country can legally be taken control of just by the usage of language. On the other hand, it should be noted that the book is not an easy read. Many a times, it is out of chronological order thus taking the reader's attention away from the topic at hand. There is very little to believe that the power of language can actually be instrumental in the total control of a nation as the author tries to over-emphasis. Scholars of Political Science may beg to disagree with her emphasis of discourse and power arguing that there were more elements involved in Japan's colonization of Korea rather than language alone.
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