Noriko Kanahara

  • Fellowship year:2018-2019
  • University: University of Chicago
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: Japan
  • Dissertation Title: History of the Perceptions of Islam and Muslims in Japan: 1920-1945
  • The dissertation examines the interwar and wartime Japanese authorities' and scholars' conceptions both of Islam as a foreign religion and of the Muslim Tatars from Central Asia, who were escaping conflict in the post-Russian revolution 1920s. During this period, due to the Russian revolution and the spread of Communism, the Japanese intelligence officers and scholars considered ideology a significant factor in classifying people and determining their acceptance or non-acceptance into the Japanese-ruled territories. The Japanese intelligence officers' acceptance of refugees depended not so much on the refugees' ethnic identifications and religious practices, i.e., the doctrine of Islam, but rather on their affiliation with Soviet Communism, which represented a threat. The period from the 1920s to 1945 was significant in terms of transnational migration of people and ideas, and was one of the earliest periods in which Japanese officials encountered relatively significant numbers of refugees. At this unprecedented encounter with Muslim Tatar refugees, among others from the former Russian Empire and later from other parts of Europe, the authorities and scholars thought hard to forge policies regarding the treatment of peoples and religions from abroad. The dissertation looks at this process and at the criteria governing their acceptance, rejection or deportation through a close analysis of various documents, including intelligence officers' reports, state-funded think tanks' reports, Japanese and Tatar Muslim writings, and interviews with both Tatar and Japanese people who lived through the war. It is hoped that this analysis of the Japanese acceptance of Islam and Muslim refugees, and understanding of "religion" more broadly, will contribute ideas for alternative policies on migration and refugees in today's global context.