Vietnamese Studies in Japan

ROUSTAN Frédéric, « From Oriental Studies to South Pacific Studies ; The multiple Origins of Vietnamese Studies in Japan, 1881 to 1951″, in Journal of Vietnamese Studies, vol.7, no.1, March 2011. Honorable mention from the Vietnam Studies Group Graduate Prize (Association of Asian Studies).

Production of contemporary knowledge on Vietnam in Japan began in the early 1880s with Japanese Oriental Studies [Tōyōgaku東洋学]. However, it wasn’t until the early 1930s that Vietnam became a topic of study at universities on the Japanese mainland. The knowledge produced before this time was almost exclusively the result of non-academic and non-institutional research. This article explains how Japanese knowledge of Vietnam evolved within the framework of the two distinct geographical concepts that defined Japanese learning on Asia: the Orient and South Pacific. I attempt to understand how a particular area of research was structured in relation to institutions,
research methodologies, and the various actors who helped shape Vietnamese Studies in Japan.

The first seeds of Vietnamese Studies in Japan were sown during the Meiji period (1868–1912). This time of transition towards a political system modeled on European states, and constructed around the idea of the nation-state, was also marked by the inception of Japanese colonial expansion in Asia in 1879.4 For the first half of the twentieth century, production of knowledge on Asia, and academia as a whole, were tributary to the development of these two interrelated phenomena. My aim in this article is not to compile an extensive bibliographical study, but rather to present the context in which this research was produced.5 At the same time, I emphasize the interconnections between researchers and institutions over a period that extends from the early 1880s to the emergence of Area Studies in the early 1950s.6 As was also the case of Asian Studies produced by other colonial powers in Asia, the production of specialized knowledge in Japan was related to the country’s need for knowledge. Because of this, I will also situate the development of Japanese studies on Vietnam within the wider colonial expansion of the Japanese nation-state that was born with Meiji and ended paradoxically with the occupation of Japan itself between 1945 and 1952. First, I address Japanese orientalism, the basic framework for Asian Studies in Japan. I then explain the birth and development of Vietnamese Studies in the non-academic world during the 1920s, followed by its gradual institutional assimilation in the 1930s.Finally, I discuss the development of Vietnamese Studies during the Second World War.

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