Outcaste or Internal Exile? Ambiguous Bodies in the Making of Modern Japan

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Timothy D Amos


Based on more orthodox interpretations of ‘exile’ such as those put forward by Edward Said, many similarities can be drawn between the ideas of exile- particularly the notion of internal exile - and the outcaste that we see in the form of the Dalit in India. In this paper, we will firstly analyse the conceptual linkages between ‘exile’, ‘outcast’, and ‘outcaste’, highlighting both points of interchangeableness and departure for these notions as they relate specifically to the late Tokugawa Japanese ‘outcaste’ groups known as eta and hinin who were officially liberated through the Emancipation Edict promulgated in 1871. Second, after a brief background discussion where we problematize the above notions through the lenses of time and space, we will examine the state/condition of being an outcaste in the late Tokugawa period, and consider how close this situation was to a state of exile. Third, we will examine a specific example of the act of re-inclusion of outcastes into their local community created by the 1871 Emancipation Edict that led to the creation of the ‘former outcaste’ or ‘new citizen’, and analyse to what extent this embodies the process of returning from exile. Lastly, the paper will conclude with a brief discussion of the extent to which a crossover between the terms ‘outcaste’ and ‘exile’ may be applicable in the Japanese context, as well as the positive aspects of attempting such a conceptual reconfiguration for historians and activists working on the Buraku problem.

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