Todd Henry - Colorado State
This presentation will address the understudied Great Korea Exposition, a major cultural spectacle aimed at commemorating the history of the Japanese Empire and promoting the struggles of the Asia-Pacific War (1937-45). Held in the fall of 1940, this celebration coincided with the thirtieth anniversary of Japan’s rule over colonial Korea and the 2,600th anniversary of the mythical foundations of the Japanese Imperial nation. As I will suggest, the convergence of past, present, and future on a completely new exposition site (and one closely linked to other sacralized sites throughout the Empire) underscores the specific nature of late Japanese imperialism, wherein both temporal and spatial differences were compressed into a homogenized aura aimed at subjecting the “unassimilated” Korean masses to a hurried process of “imperialization.” In preparing Koreans to live and die on behalf of the Japanese Emperor, the media promoters of the 1940 Exposition engaged in what I will refer to as “emotional engineering” – a project wherein officials repeatedly told colonized subjects what to feel, but rarely afforded them opportunities to embody this subjectivity as an enduring identity of their own. Instead of dangerously exposing residual differences which might have undercut the utopian project of engineering homogenized loyalties for the Imperial cause, media promoters carefully arrogated to themselves the right to declare the over-determined “success” of wartime imperialization, even before the exposition ended. This they did in large part by quantifying (but not necessarily qualifying) the large number of bodies mobilized to fill the exposition grounds – a strained performance which highlighted the need to convince potentially dubious Koreans of their subordinated place within an Empire still dominated by ethnic Japanese.