Within the framework of postcolonial studies, this essay explores how the highly codified poetic matrices deriving from premodern Japanese literary cultures are extended by poets writing in colonial Taiwan so as to redraw nature and idealize human relations in modern usage. Poetry provides an appearance of ethical and affective justification for the Japanese colonization of Taiwan and, as such, helps to facilitate exploitative practices inherent in colonial enterprises. The associations imparted through the Japanese poetic matrices, as developed over centuries in Japan, could not readily be overlaid on the newly occupied territory of subtropical Taiwan without controversy, which is discussed in light of an essay by an early colonist and poet, Uno Akitaka. Nevertheless, some Japanese colonists are shown to have used poetry as a discourse, in effect excusing colonization and the exploitation of nature and Taiwanese labor, not to mention obviating if not subordinating any recognition of Taiwanese cultures and interests. Through the imposition of this cultural prosthesis, the poetic apparatus served a utilitarian function in providing a discourse supportive of colonialism. Specific traditional images with imperial connotations, such as “pines on boulders” and “wild chrysanthemums,” as well as representations of labor in poems solicited on poetic topics such as “evening in the fishing village,” are examined for their latent ideological claims.
Journal of African and Asian Studies 79(3), pp.331-355