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Empire of Dogs

Canines, Japan, and the Making of the Modern Imperial World

Aaron Herald Skabelund

Publication Year: 2011

In the groundbreaking Empire of Dogs, Aaron Herald Skabelund examines the history and cultural significance of dogs in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Japan, beginning with the arrival of Western dog breeds and new modes of dog keeping, which spread throughout the world with Western imperialism. He highlights how dogs joined with humans to create the modern imperial world and how, in turn, imperialism shaped dogs' bodies and their relationship with humans through its impact on dog-breeding and dog-keeping practices that pervade much of the world today.

In a book that is both enlightening and entertaining, Skabelund focuses on actual and metaphorical dogs in a variety of contexts: the rhetorical pairing of the Western "colonial dog" with native canines; subsequent campaigns against indigenous canines in the imperial realm; the creation, maintenance, and in some cases restoration of Japanese dog breeds, including the Shiba Inu; the mobilization of military dogs, both real and fictional; and the emergence of Japan as a "pet superpower" in the second half of the twentieth century. Through this provocative account, Skabelund demonstrates how animals generally and canines specifically have contributed to the creation of our shared history, and how certain dogs have subtly influenced how that history is told. Generously illustrated with both color and black-and-white images, Empire of Dogs shows that human-canine relations often expose how people-especially those with power and wealth-use animals to define, regulate, and enforce political and social boundaries between themselves and other humans, especially in imperial contexts.

Published by: Cornell University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Map

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xviii

...Many people suppose that I wrote a book about dogs because I am a dog lover. My family kept two dogs, an English pointer Belle (1965–1979) and a German short-haired pointer Christy (1976–1978), when I was a child, but many years delivering newspapers added some ambiguity to my fondness for canines. I never...

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Introduction: Canine Imperialism

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pp. 1-17

...On the morning of 21 May 1925, a dog known as Hachikoˉ walked with his master to a Tokyo railway station just as they had done each weekday morning for over a year since he had been adopted as a two-month-old puppy. That day his master, felled by a lethal stroke while at work, did not return. For the next decade, Hachikoˉ frequented the environs of the station. In 1932, thanks to the efforts of...

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1. The Native Dog and the Colonial Dog

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pp. 18-52

...Over two decades after an unnamed Harper’s writer asserted that, like American Indians, Asian canines were vicious, cutthroat, and decadent, the prolific British travel writer Isabella Bird (1831–1904) expressed a similar loathing for the dogs she encountered while journeying in northern Japan in 1878. The “primitive Japanese dog — a cream-coloured wolfish-looking animal, the size of a collie, very...

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2. Civilizing Canines; or, Domesticating and Destroying Dogs

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pp. 53-86

...new neighbor. Two of the dogs are native canines, as evidenced by their physical appearance and traditional Japanese clothing. The other dog is a Western canine wearing dark trousers and a navy-blue tunic. All three sport wooden tags hanging around their necks. In the accompanying text, the Western dog greets the native dogs, telling them that he has come from a faraway country to make his home...

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3. Fascism’s Furry Friends: The “Loyal Dog” Hachikoˉ and the Creation of the “Japanese” Dog

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pp. 87-129

...Thanks to his glorification, while he was alive and since, many people have heard of the tale of Hachikoˉ (1923–35). Numerous photographs exist of the dog, including one that likely dates from around 1933 showing an aging, large, doublecoated, cream-colored canine, hunched back on his hind legs, his right ear erect...

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4. Dogs of War: Mobilizing All Creatures Great and Small

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pp. 130-170

...While the “Loyal Dog” Hachikoˉ and most other “Japanese” canines were militarized only in the realm of the imagination, many dogs actually went to war. During the First and Second World Wars, nearly every combatant nation employed dogs to perform military-related tasks. The widespread, systematic deployment of canines...

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5. A Dog’s World: The Commodification of Contemporary Dog Keeping

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pp. 171-198

...In the spring of 1946, just over a half a year after the Japanese government’s surrender brought an end to the Second World War, the former army-dog specialist and owner of the Mikado Kennel, Sawabe Kenjiroˉ, reopened his shop across the street from the Takashimaya department store in the downtown Tokyo neighborhood...


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pp. 199-232


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pp. 233-252


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pp. 253-268

Further Reading

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pp. 269-270

E-ISBN-13: 9780801463235
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801450259

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1