Prof. Kleinschmidt – Formation, Adaptation, Response: Nationalism in Japan c. 1900. Critical Notes on ‘Transfer Nationalism’

The lecture challenges the concept of ‘transfer nationalism’ suggesting that nationalism has emerged in areas outside Europe only through the transfer of its key ideas. This position, widely held in political sociology and modern history, stands in stark contrast against evidence provided by the history of nationalism in Japan which, from the turn of the nineteenth century at the latest, features tenets that can hardly have been of European origin. The core feature discussed at length in the article is the idea of tenka (天下; literally translated: all under heaven), constituting the group of ruled in terms of a universalistic indigenate (kokumin国民) , which allowed its expansion beyond the Japanese archipelago at government discretion. The concept of the universalistic indigenat, having been tied to the Confucian perception of the world as a well-ordered and change-absorbing entity, conflicted with the European concept of the nation as a particularistically conceived type of group, tied to the perception of the world as a dynamic and largely unruly entity. During the latter third of the nineteenth and the early twentieth century, some Japanese intellectuals came to appreciate the dynamism enshrined in the European concept of the nation and worked it into the established concept of the indigenat. The fusion produced a powerful ideology of colonial expansion targeted primarily at East and Southeast Asia as well as the South Pacific. By contrast, European, specifically military strategists and political theorists, unaware of the Japanese strategic conceptions, expected that solely Russia formed the target of Japanese military expansion.


  • Historisches Institut


  • Altes Audimax, Hörsaal 4
    Rubenowstraße 1

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