In his new book Outcasts of Empire, Paul D. Barclay probes the limits of modern nation-state sovereignty by positioning colonial Taiwan at the intersection of the declining Qing and ascending Japanese empires. Outcasts chronicles the lives and times of interpreters, chiefs, and trading-post operators along the far edges of the expanding international system, an area known as Taiwan’s “savage border.” In addition, Barclay boldly asserts the interpenetration of industrial capitalism and modern ethnic identities.
By the 1930s, three decades into Japanese imperial rule, mechanized warfare and bulk commodity production rendered superfluous a whole class of mediators—among them, Kondo “the Barbarian” Katsusaburo, Pan Bunkiet, and Iwan Robao. Even with these unreliable allies safely cast aside, the Japanese empire lacked the resources to integrate indigenous Taiwan into the rest of the colony. The empire, therefore, created the Indigenous Territory, which exists to this day as a legacy of Japanese imperialism, local initiatives, and the global commoditization of culture.
Paul D. Barclay teaches East Asian history at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. He is the general editor of the digital repository East Asia Image Collection and author of Outcasts of Empire: Japan’s Rule on Taiwan’s “Savage Border,” 1874-1945(University of California, 2017). Barclay’s research has received support from the National Endowment from the Humanities, the Social Science Research Council, the Japanese Council for the Promotion of Science, and the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.