The Relationship between Natural Environmental Differences and Reproduction of National Identity in Peripheries:
The Development of the Argument on the Staple Food Problem among Political-cultural Elites in Karafuto
Soshioroji, 53(2), 2008, pp.55-72

This article is a study on the process of reproduction of a national identity in a periphery. In a periphery, the natural environmental differences alienate the cultural national identity, and in order to overcome this, a political national identity particular to the periphery is required to arise within the normative culture particular to the periphery. This article analyzes that process, and discusses whether political-cultural elites represented the people or were agents for the center. These subjects are analyzed through use of the public discourse in political documents and the media, as well as via statistical data and economic surveys in Karafuto.

One of the most important natural environmental differences in Karafuto was that rice was unable to be grown there. The agricultural policy of the Karafuto government, the two theses of Karafuto culture, and a food shortage in the whole of the Japanese empire demanded that the Karafuto people change their staple food. This meant a departure from being a “rice-eating community”, and it alienated the cultural national identity of the Karafuto people. In order to overcome this, the political-cultural elites in Karafuto attempted to establish a political national identity particular to the periphery, and to design the normative culture for the periphery. The natural environmental differences were the source of cultural national identity alienation; however, they were internalized and came to be the most important standpoint for the political national identity of the periphery.

This political national identity particular to the periphery could react against the central political national identity when it came to issues of food security. Political-cultural elites appealed to the people to change their staple food, but they could not achieve their goal because most of the Karafuto people remained within the “rice-eating community” connected to the national market. The political-cultural elites did not behave as agencies for the center of the imperial government, but it is difficult to conclude that they represented the people sufficiently.

(Update: 2020.03.10)