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  • Outcasts of Empire: Japan’s Rule on Taiwan’s “Savage Border,” 1874–1945 by Paul D. Barclay
  • Robert Eskildsen
Outcasts of Empire: Japan’s Rule on Taiwan’s “Savage Border,” 1874–1945. By Paul D. Barclay. University of California Press, 2018. 322 pages. Softcover, $34.95/£27.95; e-book, no cost.

Paul Barclay’s Outcasts of Empire offers an important corrective to the view that Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan was benevolent. Violence is not Barclay’s central concern—he is primarily interested in discussing the emergence of the indigenous people of Taiwan as separately administered ethnic minorities during the colonial period—but it is never far from view in his account of how the colonial government deprived indigenes of their autonomy and established partial control over them. Barclay has been studying the history of Taiwan’s indigenous territory for many years, starting with his dissertation, a comparative study of the Japanese colony in Taiwan and the American colony in the Philippines. Though the present book focuses solely on Taiwan, he brings the full breadth of his knowledge and comparative perspective to bear on his analysis of how the Japanese pacified the indigenous territory and created a regime of cultural pluralism there.

Barclay’s argument is interesting and important, but also densely packed. One of several interlocking ideas he uses is “high-velocity capitalism,” a term that indicates both the economic underpinnings of Western imperialism in the second half of the nineteenth century and the role that states played in promoting industrial capitalism. Barclay sees high-velocity capitalism as a global phenomenon that, in East Asia, contributed to the treaty port system established after the Opium War. The “high velocity” derived from global shipping and communications networks in “a world economy whose industrial plants and working masses were sustained by the timely shipment of oceangoing bulk commodities” (p. 18).

This idea supports Barclay’s argument in several ways. First, it explains why the indigenous territory of Taiwan became such a problem for the Chinese government in the second half of the nineteenth century: the Qing dynasty did not have the right kind of state apparatus to keep up with the speed of Western capitalism, and its failure to secure shipping around Taiwan led to attacks on its claim to the island. Second, it establishes a common basis for understanding problems that both Japan and China faced when Westerners called for the opening of their markets. Barclay pushes this comparison too far, though, when he argues that the same problems were also faced by indigenous villagers in one small corner of southern Taiwan in the 1870s, and he misconstrues the nature of the treaty port system when he erroneously claims that the villages there were brought into the system by an oral agreement between an American diplomat and an indigenous leader in 1867 (pp. 56–65). Third, high-velocity capitalism provides a way of talking about how and why the Japanese government made a determined effort to integrate the indigenous territory into the colonial economy in Taiwan: having colonized Taiwan, the Japanese needed to make the colony pay for itself. [End Page 270]

The Qing dynasty paid little heed to territories on the empire’s periphery, and its hands-off approach left it unable to address new risks posed by high-velocity capitalism. After colonizing Taiwan in 1895, Japan addressed those risks by extracting resources useful for the global industrial economy, especially camphor, while attempting to establish sufficient control over indigenous society to generate the tax revenue that would be needed to govern the territory. The Japanese had more success extracting resources than revenue, and the colonial government never managed to fully integrate the indigenous territory into the rest of the colony, instead placing it under a special form of administration. Barclay explains the problem from a broad comparative perspective:

The final push toward state ownership of the earth’s inhabited space was halted where native peoples could not be brought within imperialism’s centrally administered territories. Today these peoples are known as indigenous, and their territories are administered under different sets of rules from the rest of the nation’s spaces.

(p. 18)

This is the central...


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pp. 270-274
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