SURF

Yu-Han Serena Ma

Who are we? - Japanese History Textbooks and the Creation of a National Identity

In the early twentieth century Japan stood at the apex of East Asia. It ceased to be a secluded island and became an empire that stretched from Sakhalin to Taiwan, an empire that even the West feared. However, securing the empire required the Japanese state to turn away from territorial expansion and to focus on articulating a national identity appropriate for the new empire. To assure the Japanese people of its continuity and legitimacy, this national identity had to be built upon the past. History textbooks, therefore, became one of the key mediums used by the Japanese state to construct and convey a new identity. By examining state elementary school history textbooks published from 1905 to 1926, my research will analyze the national identity promoted by the Japanese state. My project also seeks to measure the success of that identity by studying the publics reaction towards state-compiled textbooks.

Message to Sponsor

I am incredibly honored and grateful for having been selected as a SURF fellow. The program and the funding provided by the JSB Fund will enable me to travel to archives in Japan and thus examine significantly more sources than I could if I only had access to the digital archives. Moreover, SURF provides me with the unique opportunity to refine my skills as a scholar. Through SURF, I hope to contribute to the rich scholarship on Japanese nationalism, which tends to focus on the Shwa period (1926-1989) and the Japanese nation-state, by exploring identity construction during the Taish period (1912-1926) and in the context of the Japanese empire.
  • Major: History
  • Sponsor: JSB SURF fellow
  • Mentor: Andrew Barshay, History