Immanentism, Double-abjection and the Politics of Psyche in

(Post) Colonial Taiwan


Chinese Version

Copy Rightcopyright.gif (70 bytes)Joyce C. H. Liu

Graduate Institute for Social Research and Cultural Studies
Chiao Tung University, Taiwan


This essay discusses the psyche politics employed in the discourse of identity and of subjectivity in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period (1895–1945), and such politics of psyche recurred in an uncanny way in post-colonial Taiwan, especially during recent decade. When we consider such psyche politics against the Althusserian notion of subject or Foucaultian notion of the process of subjectivation, we notice that, instead of bio-politics, the discourse of the “xin”, the heart or psyche, plays a much more important role that it constituted the formation of the subject, either the “Imperial Subject” in colonial times or the radically localized Taiwanese subject of today. The Chinese “xin”, as the Japanese gokoro, serves as a token to be invested and exchanged for various political values. Such investment in the “heart,” or the interior essence, is what Jean-Luc Nancy called “immanentism”: “the goal of achieving a community of beings producing in essence their own essence as their work, and furthermore producing precisely this essence as community.” [1]That is to say, the essence of man is fashioned and regulated so that a community of shared immanence can be thinkable. Subsequently, Nancy explains, “economic ties, technological operations, and political fusion (into a body or under a leader) represent or rather present, expose, and realize this essence necessarily in themselves.”[2]For Nancy, immanentism is a better term for totalitarianism because it does not limit itself to certain types of societies or political regimes but rather reveals the fundamental mentality of our time.

I find Nancy’s concept of “immanentism” very powerful in explaining the techn? of the formation of subject and the self-fashioning mode of the constitution of communities. But I prefer the term “psyche politics,” particular in Chinese and Taiwanese contexts. [3] When a certain abstract quality is defined as the immanent essence or psyche of the national subject and serves as the external delineation for the community, individual differences are discursively erased and a historical process of homogenization is conducted. This immanent quality or psyche, be it the Chinese xin or the Japanese gokoro, can be defined accordingly along with the change of political ideology. In the case of Taiwan, we notice that through this process of discursive economics of the xin, something has been symbolically and drastically displaced and exchanged, especially during the Japanese colonial period as well as the recent ten years under the new government. A particular mode of xin, the immanent essence or the spirit of the national subject, is demanded, and this mode of xin requires the effacement and abjection of the old self. Such discursive self-effacement and self-abjection, to my mind, constitute the indispensable threshold for the process of subjectivation. I would like to suggest that the stage of discursive self-abjection, or the will to cleanse one’s heart and to forsake one’s old self, is imperative for the process of subject formation to be completed, or even to begin. Moreover, it is this sadomasochistic self-effacement that energizes one to conform to the symbolic, to purge his interior uncleanliness, to become a non-self subject, while enjoying a sense of happiness and fulfillment. More significantly, the flip side of the self-abjection is the discourse of the “gong”, the public good that is shared by all, and these two symbiotic states constructed the particular mode of discourse of the psyche in East Asia during the Pacific War, that paved the way for the notion of nation that is supported by the framework of Asia. This locus of the gong, which often is erected in the name of love to uphold the sense of community, paradoxically serves the cause for cruelty against the difference, outside and inside the community. The abjection goes in double directions: the internal effacement and the external exclusion. Through such discursive mode of psyche politics, a certain sense of community is engineered.

I shall begin my discussion with the case of Yoshinori Kobayashi’s comic book On Taiwan.

“Tracing the past history that we’ve shared together, we’ll finally understand who we are and what memories we’ve lost.” (Yoshinori Kobayashi’s On Taiwan)


The Yoshinori Kobayashi Event and the Double Mirror

Yoshinori Kobayashi’s comic book On Taiwan, which appeared in 2001, provides material to cut into this issue of subjectivity.[4] The work presents itself as both a travelogue and a history book, professing to retrace the histories that were commonly shared by Japan and Taiwan in the first half of the twentieth century. Kobayashi himself appears in the book as a reporter, visiting places in Taiwan; glorifying the modern technologies, policies, agricultural constructions, and urban architectural styles brought by the Japanese colonial government; and interviewing various people, including a former president, Li Denghui, the current president, Chen Shuibian, and the politically influential entrepreneur Xu Wenlong, among many others. Kobayashi’s comments on the historical, political, and cultural issues of Taiwan show not only support for Taiwan’s independence but also his intention to reignite the Japanese spirit (Riben jingshen) [5] among young people, justify the second Sino-Japanese War (1938-1945), and rewrite the history of that war. Kobayashi’s book therefore aroused strong reactions in both China and Taiwan, but for different reasons. Criticism in China mainly targeted Kobayashi’s interpretation of the Nanjing Massacre, which was in line with a common belief among contemporary rightwing Japanese that Japanese people today do not need to feel ashamed by their fathers’ or their grandfathers’ conviction that the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere[6] was just or their opinion that the number of victims of the Nanjing Massacre[7] has been exaggerated. Such remarks angered people in China and prompted vehement protests.[8] A Qi Mei factory in Zhenjiang, China, was forced to close after the company’s founder, Xu Wenlong, voiced support for Kobayashi’s comments on the comfort women.[9]

The reactions in Taiwan to Kobayashi’s book were of a totally different nature. From the outset, the debates aroused by On Taiwan were also aimed at the historical interpretation of the wartime experience, particularly concerning the position of comfort women, whom Kobayashi said had volunteered to serve the nation and consequently their families viewed such opportunities with gratitude. Protestors went into the streets claiming to protect these women’s honor.[10] But offshoots of emotional conflict surfaced along with these debates. Loud, angry voices in the media and on Web sites called for the book to be banned and used phrases such as “traitors,” “enslaving education,” and “generations of the imperial subjects” to attack those who voiced support for Kobayashi, who was even forbidden to enter Taiwan. [11] On the other hand, equally strong voices welcomed Kobayashi’s idealistic and nostalgic depiction of Taiwan, saying he had presented a convincing case for colonial modernity and demonstrated his understanding and appreciation of the virtues of the Taiwanese people. To them, Kobayashi’s view presented a “Taiwanese perspective.” Some of Kobayashi’s supporters even voiced the suspicion that protests against him were actually aimed at overthrowing President Chen Shuibian’s government. [12]

Though he was commenting on Taiwan, Kobayashi was addressing his Japanese contemporaries.[13] He wanted to present Taiwan as the site that still remains the perfect embodiment of the “Japanese spirit” that he would like the Japanese to revive. Taiwanese people under his pen are courteous, punctual, sincere, law-abiding, hardworking, and selfless — the very image of how the Japanese used to view themselves. Therefore, from a different perspective, this book could also serve as a tour guide for the Japanese to seek their lost home of Japanese virtues. It is no wonder that critics have pointed out that his nostalgia is directed toward the generation of age when he grew up.

The most striking features of Kobayashi’s book, however, are his fascist logic concerning the national subject and issues of identity, and how his views resonate with and even mirror the views of many Taiwanese. Kobayashi said: “The question of national identity is the same as self identity. Where do I belong? Who am I? What is my existence? These are the most important questions that every modern person has to face. We have to answer to the question as to whether national belonging and national identity still exist.”[14] To him, the meaning of an individual’s existence is defined only by his nation. He also insists that it is not consanguinity that determines national identity, but spiritual inheritance and the national language. He complimented Li Denghui as the best inheritor of the Japanese spirit, saying Li exemplifies “the death of the self.”[15] The strange logic of the equation between “the death of the self” and the “Japanese spirit” exercised by Kobayashi appeals to a particular rationale of immanentism. I shall come back to this question later, but for now, I would like to point out right away that such immanentism requires that the spiritual essence that constitutes the nation is the spiritual inheritance said to be shared by everyone in the community, and that the partaking of such abstract spirituality demands the voiding of the interior of an individual so that it can be replaced by the abstract spirit. The emptying out of the interior, of course, requires the creation of the interior discursively. That is to say, the subject in the kominka (imperial subject) movement has first to cleanse his barbarian heart so that he can prove his loyalty to the emperor and share the purity of the Japanese spirit. In this way, a psyche that is cleansable and correctable is constructed through the kominka discourse. When the subject of Taiwan is summoned, it is particularly addressed to serve the emperor and to fight for the sake of a greater Asia. The emperor is there watching and waiting for your devotion and sacrifice. Thus, the creation of the psyche of the subject, or the immanent spirit of the individual, is to meet the gaze of the Asia-conquering emperor as the Absolute, the Wholly Other, as phrased by Althusser in his theoretical analysis of the relationship between the subject and the state apparatus. The Japanese spirit as a double-binding immanentism therefore is the key to the understanding of identity in colonial Taiwan. Also, this immanent nature is imagined with the frameset of the map of Asia — that is, the law of the gong — and constructed discursively.

The existence of myself—who am I? This is the question that every modern person has to face. We have to answer the question as to whether national belonging and national identity still exist! The Japanese should have the courage to face themselves! Let’s take a good look at Taiwan!”[16]

Even though Kobayashi’s intention was bluntly nostalgic on his part, what he looked for in Taiwan actually tapped into an aspect of Taiwanese people’s own self expectations. Taiwanese people, especially people who grew up during the colonial era, would like to present themselves as Kobayashi depicted: lawful, punctual, diligent, and so on. Kobayashi takes Taiwan as a mirror that, he hopes, presents the authentic Japanese spirit. Interestingly, this mirror serves a double reflexive function: it shows Kobayashi’s nostalgic longings, the frame that constitutes this mode of longings, while at the same time it also presents the Taiwanese images framed by the same context shared by Kobayashi, under the same imperial gaze. The Japanese spirit Kobayashi painstakingly illustrates in his comic book is a concept, according to former President Li Denghui, fully understood by Taiwanese. Indeed, Li is described in the book as the one who truly inherited the Japanese spirit. After Kobayashi’s book was published in Taiwan, Li even expressed his willingness to visit Japan to give lectures for Japanese students on the essence of the Japanese spirit.[17] Three years later, he published a book on the spirit of the samurai (bushido) in 2004.[18] Jin Meiling, a politician associated with the Taiwan independence movement, explained that “Riben jingshen” (Japanese spirit) is a phrase “circulated throughout all corners in Taiwan,” and that “everyone would understand the meaning of ‘Riben jingshen’ whenever it is uttered.”[19] According to Jin, for most Taiwanese, “Riben jingshen” refers not only to nostalgia for the Japanese era but also to a more general suggestion of the qualities of “cleanliness, justice, honesty, diligence, trustworthiness, responsibility, lawfulness, service to the state, and the effacing of the self.”[20] For Jin and many Taiwanese, “Riben jingshen” suggests modernity — as opposed to qualities such as dirtiness, cheating, laziness, superstitiousness, and irresponsibility — which contains the qualities a decent modern citizen of the nation should display.

Other Taiwanese people, however, especially those who did not share this Japanese experience, have more ambivalent feelings toward the Japanese spirit. They do not want to see such identities mixed with the past and saturated by the Japanese colonial experience. The ambivalent attitude toward the Japanese past is most obviously revealed in the discursive field of Taiwanese literary studies. With many scholars unwilling to acknowledge the Japanese identity presented in the corpus of literary works, grouped as kominka (imperial subjects) literature, serious studies of kominka literature did not enter the scholarly arena until the late 1990s, and even then not without resistance. In 1998, for example, some people severely attacked the publication of Kominka Literature, translated by Zhang Liangze. Chen Yingzhen and the editorial group of Renjian Publishers proclaimed that they wanted to “organize articles” and fight against the literature of the “Hanjian” (traitors of the Chinese). [21]Chen called the Japanization project a “large-scale spiritual brainwash” that was aimed at ultimately depriving Taiwanese of their Chinese subjectivity. Under the sway of Japanization, Taiwanese learned to resent and discard the “Chinese subjectivity” and hence put themselves into the status of “slaves,” he said.[22] Zeng Jianming echoed Chen’s view and suggested that “imperial subject literature” was a tool for the colonial government to advocate the Japanese nationalistic and fascist ideals so that Taiwanese people could be mobilized to join the Pacific War.[23] Slightly different from the Renjian Group but holding a similar attitude are people who insisted that Taiwanese writers such as Yang Kui, Zhang Wenhuan, and Lu Heruo had never fallen into the trap of the Japanization logic, or that Taiwanese writers manifested a leftist sense of class struggle and always demonstrated a strong spirit of resistance, or that remaining silent to history and choosing the same position as the Japanese colonial government would compromise scholars.[24]

Such intense denial and abjection of the past remind us of the fact that the “inheritance,” as Kobayashi put it, of the Japanese spirit makes the subjective structure a very complex issue.[25] It is no longer a rational statement of “who I am,” but a historically conditioned and multi-layered structure of subjective feelings that involve ambivalence and sadomasochistic impulses. In order to fully understand the complex subjective structures, we need to look into the process of the formation of the subjectivity in the Japanese colonial period.

The Formation of the Subject and Psyche Politics

Leo Ching has noted that in order to tackle the colonial discourse with a radical critique, we need to go beyond the mode of discourse that stresses that all communities are “imagined” or that all identities are “historically contingent.” Ching suggests that we examine “the processes and the procedures by which those categories are produced by colonial modernity, and how they are mobilized in turn as a regime of colonial power.” He also notes the mix of longing and loathing of the once-colonized subjects in their relationship to Japan. Ching’s question is intriguing: “Why must Japan’s colonial discourse and practice take the form of interpellating its subjects into becoming Japanese”?[26]

I would like to push this question further and ask what has happened during this subject formation. Why is this interpellation so successful that Taiwanese during the colonial period would despise themselves so utterly that they viewed themselves as “incomplete men,” as Zhang Wenhuan put it? Why are the ambivalent feelings often directed not against Japan but actually against themselves? Why would they even want to die for the emperor voluntarily, with a strong sense of happiness and gratitude? The eagerness and sincerity in the volunteering death is indeed perplexing, but the self-denouncement and abjection is even more so. Can we fully understand the psychic structure of the Taiwanese subject during the colonial period? What took place during the subject formation process, and why has this historically concluded process of subject-formation emerged again as an on-going structuring force in contemporary Taiwan society? Why are the phrases “Taiwanese heart” and “Taiwanese soul” or “Taiwanese spirit” so widely used in contemporary Taiwan, while so intimately echoing the once popular catch phrase Yamato-gokoro, “Japanese heart” and “Japanese soul” or “Japanese spirit”?[27]

Masao Maruyama has brilliantly analyzed the paradoxical shift of the connotation of the “gokoro” (heart/soul/spirit) in Japanese culture. He has shown that, in order to rid themselves of the influence of Chinese Confucian rationalism, the Japanese thinkers, especially Motoori Norinaga, searched for the Yamato-gokoro, the Japanese heart or the Japanese spirit, in the eighteenth century, as distinct from the kara-gokoro, the Chinese spirit. The “heart” for Motoori was defined as true, simple, natural, and original, but this appeal to the Yamato-gokoro turned out to be the basis for Japanese nationalism.[28]

“The peaceful transfer of political power accomplished by Li Denghui is the best performance of giving up private personal need for the sake of gong so that the nation has a larger space for development.”

Heideggerian interpretations of identity can help us explain the political economy of psyche politics. Heidegger remarked that, when we say, “A is A,” “A belongs to A,” or “A equals to A,” “A” is no longer “A” itself. This equation requires the intervention of thought and a leap upward onto the Ge-stell, a frame set up by the historical conditions.[29] How does the subject identify himself with the position within the particular symbolic system? Goto Shimpei, the civil administrator who worked with General Kodama Gentaro (from 1898 to 1906), once stated that the difference between Taiwanese and Japanese is like the difference between flatfish and snapper – one that cannot be easily erased. How can this difference be effaced and assimilated into sameness for colonial Taiwan? Indeed, it cannot, unless the essence of the subject is altered. This identity, or equation between an individual and the symbolic frame, is not a natural state of being but a discursive construction and naturalization.

Such naturalization or the alteration of the self is brought about most successfully through the discourse of immanentism in education. In the texts used to advocate the meaning of education and its relation to the nation as an organic body, Japan is described as a big family, with the emperor as the parent, linking society or the community as an organic totality.[30] In the regulations for elementary schools announced by the Education Bureau in 1941, the first rule was to stress the importance to incorporate the spirit of the imperial nation and to strengthen loyalty to the national body. [31]The metaphor of the nation as an organic body is clearly employed here. Lacoue-Labarthe offered a penetrating observation on the organicity of the community and of the people and stated that it is this organicity that lies beneath the concept of totalitarianism:

[It] is the organicity of the people, the Volkstum, which our concept of ‘nation’, restored to its original meaning, renders reasonably well, in so far as it indicates a natural or ‘physical’ determination of the community which can only be accomplished and revealed to that community by a techn? – if not indeed by techn? itself, by art, beginning with language (with the community’s language).[32]

Thus, the so-called immanent nature of the community is created through language, through techn?, through bio-politics, as if the community is an organic artwork. Such a process of self-formation and self-production, according to Lacoue-Labarthe, finds its truth in “a fusion of the community” or in the “ecstatic identification with a Leader” who incarnates “in immanent fashion, the immanentism of a community.” [33]

As the essential tool in this operation of the subjectivity, the organistic and immanent position of the emperor in the national body has to be familiarized with first through education. In the textbooks for elementary school, there are lessons in “xiushen” for students to learn self-discipline. Every student had to memorize the educational commandments and bow to the photos of the emperor and empress hung in the hallway of the school. This follows the pattern of the rhetoric of filiality. All subjects in the nation had to serve the emperor with filiality to show their loyalty. Through the repetition of the ritual and the memorization of the text, the process of subjectification discussed by Foucault in The Use of Pleasure is completed. [34]

One can practice it, too, because one regards oneself as an heir to a spiritual tradition that one has the responsibility of maintaining or reviving; one can also practice fidelity in response to an appeal, by offering oneself as an example, or by seeking to give one’s personal life a form that answers to criteria of brilliance, beauty, nobility, or perfection.[35]

In Technologies of the Self, Foucault further elaborates this concept of subjectification: it is the “technologies of the self” that “permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and ways of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality.” [36]This state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, and immortality is apparently built upon the specific symbolic system the individual is situated in and thus constitutes the position of the subject as an ethical being. The core of the matter, however, is that the ethical subject produced through such a process of subjectification knows how to discern its position within the logos, and how to suture himself, in Althusser’s words, to the system, as part of the divine body: “If you observe the ‘law of love’ you will be saved, you, Peter, and will become part of the Glorious Body of Christ.”[37]

The discourse of the re-construction of the “heart” of the imperial subject corresponds to Heidegger’s discussion of the technique of the Ge-stell, Foucault’s process of subjectification, and Althusser’s metaphor of the bodily logos. This, however, is not enough for the process of subjectification to be complete. There has to be a stage of self-abjection, the institution of the non-self, in the operation of the regime of the psyche for the path to the gong, the nation, to be paved. We clearly read in Taiwanese literature during the colonial period such a process of self-abjection. One striking feature of this literature is its abundance of self-debased bodily images, such as unmanliness and “incompleteness,”[38] “walking corpse,” “ugly and vulgar,” [39] and “islanders are not men.” [40]Along with these indications of a sense of inferiority, we also read plentiful images of rottenness, diseased blood, dark and unspeakable stinking odor within the interior of the mouth,[41] tiny insects trodden in the road, worms spread across the belly.[42] Such sense of a wrong, incomplete, diseased, and bad body is forged by the sense of abjection, as defined in the symbolic system and can be corrected only through the change from the interior, an alteration of the xin. We also encountered in literary writings the strong demand to purify themselves through blood-cleansing and transcendence, so that they can become a “complete” and decent man. [43]The project consequently involves a voluntary act to cleanse one’s heart before they can change their identities, or even their sense of identification.

Kobayashi said in his comic book that Li Denghui demonstrated the perfect spirit of “self-sacrifice for the sake of one's country” and that this is indeed the exact embodiment of the Japanese spirit. In order to become a subject defined by the nation, one has to renounce one’s self so that one can enter the domain guarded by the constitution of the nation. Kobayashi said that the question as to “who am I” and “the foundation of my existence” is the same question as the belongingness of an individual, that is, self-identity. He wrote, “If there’s no sense of belonging, how can there be any ethical differentiation?” [44] For him, identity, existence, a sense of belonging, and ethics all make sense only in the context of the nation. Consequently, the subject position in terms of modernity is a non-I subject, directed toward the aims of the nation. This is exactly what is said and believed in by people during wartime. [45]

Such psyche-cleansing rhetoric is most fully revealed in The Way (Dao), a novel by Chen Huoquan.[46] Chen, known as a kominka writer, demonstrates in his writing a clear effort to rationalize and justify the process of subject formation. He states in the novel that in order to present the Japanese spirit, it is not enough to lead a Japanese lifestyle; one has to internalize the national spirit through mastery of the national language: “to think with the national language, to speak with the national language, and to write with the national language” so that one can actualize one’s self as a “national subject” and develop one’s life as a national subject.[47] The national language mentioned here is not just a matter of formality or a technical problem; its discourse has a theological orientation. The national language in this context is described as the “spiritual blood” and endowed with a mythical quality with which the sense of communion is established. The concept that national language is the “spiritual blood” and the “sign of the national body” was proposed by Ueda Kazutoshi in 1894. Using his concept, the educational philosopher Tokieda Motoki developed the concept of a “trinity” to define the equivalent relationship among the nation, the people and the national language: “Now it is the time that the Japanese nation, Japanese people and the Japanese language are ‘three in one body.’”[48] In this ideological construct, the national language is the spiritual blood of the nation, and through sharing the spiritual blood the individual can partake of the life of the nation and thus become a national subject. The community of the shared consciousness is consequently formed. The divine nature of the nation is clearly delineated in this discourse of trinity. The symbolic equation between nation, emperor, and god makes the myth of the new nation endowed with a sacred nature. This sacredness of the nation requires the link between the national subject and the spiritual genealogy.

Chen Huoquan once wrote in an article concerning the Japanese spirit: “The essence of Japanese spirit is the supreme, the central, and the absolute position maintained by the emperor. This spiritual essential ontology is the clear heart.”[49] The emperor is literally placed at the core of the national apparatus, as if he were the brain or the heart of the nation. The narrator in The Way also said that, in order to become a true national subject, one not only has to believe in Japanese religion and worship the god of the sun;[50] most importantly, one has to give oneself entirely to the emperor. To give oneself up to the emperor means to efface the unclean parts in one’s heart. By the same logic, though the Pacific War of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere is a holy battle to clear away the barbarians, it is more a battle against oneself: “to conquer the barbarians for the emperor, and to purify our barbarian hearts, it is the Japanese spirit.”[51] We may say that the Japanese spirit is defined by the act of self cleansing and self abjection. The central metaphor used in this novel, the modern distilling process for camphor, suggests the transformation and sublimation of the interior substance into pure spiritual essence. Therefore, to purify one’s heart becomes the imperative procedure for the attainment of the Japanese spirit and subsequently the regeneration of a new nation.

Zhang Wenhuan, never labeled a kominka writer but famous for his status as a writer of local-color, showed in his essays a similar rhetoric of psyche cleansing and reformation.[52] He once wrote that the military training to forge an imperial subject and to purify the islanders’ consciousness is like the process of water passing through a filter. Filthy water would be “cut off” and become pure water.[53]Cutting off the past is a necessary act for self-transformation, and cleanliness is the ideal form of the self-image. Zhang’s comments on the public and the private demonstrate how the symbolic order had successfully internalized and served as self-regulation principles. He criticized the streets of Taipei as vulgar and chaotic, and suggested that all the geisha houses should be gathered at remote corners rather than being allowed throughout the city.[54] He also showed his disagreement over the messy conditions in the movie theaters at Dadaocheng, in suburban Taipei. Adults and children eating snacks and melon seeds while watching movies did not fit the Japanese spirit at all, he complained. “How could people not feel ashamed?” Because movies are to teach people how to become imperial subjects, he said, “the audience should be self-reflecting and consider in what postures were they watching the movies.” [55]Zhang, however, wanted more than superficial changes. People should “change not only their external appearance but also their internal spiritual life.” [56]As a famous local writer, his essays published in the newspapers were influential and helped to direct the readers’ attention toward the law of the emperor. Such self-discipline and self-observation, under the gaze of the imperial other, become the delimitation of the subject as defined by the nation.

“If we take the public interest of the totality of Asia into consideration, the invasion into China can be justified.” “The interest of gong through Japanese occupation can bring better happiness to Asian countries.

Gong — Synonym of the Justification for Exclusion

The cutting off and effacing of the alien within oneself is the beginning of the systematic homogenization within the community and the exclusion of the other. The figure representing Li Denghui in Kobayashi’s book says, “If one wants to lead a meaningful life, one has to consider the question of death constantly. It is not physical death but absolute negation of the self.” [57] The effacement and even death of the self is the first step in triggering the process of identification, and the logic of the gong, the nation or the Japanese spirit, subsequently occupies the locus of the self. The key word here is “the death of the self.” We see the coexistence of the sublime and the total destruction behind the facade of the gong.

“Forsaking selfish interest, nourishing the spirit of taking the world as the public good, gong, and the interest of nation as the supreme premises, such is the nationalism demanded by Japan. Only when Japan retrieves her glory and awakening can she lead Asia into the next generation.”

The narrator in Chen’s novel says: “Today, in the south, a new nation is being born, and a new mythology is circulating. Except for this moment, when can the six million islanders become the imperial soldiers and obtain our salvation? It is the moment for us to sacrifice our lives for the emperor.”[58] Chen also stresses that one must be pious and “demolish oneself so that he can forsake everything in the world and leap into the realm of the gods.” [59]This spiritual leap of faith, Chen explains, would transcend the limitations set up by blood genealogy and would enable the subject to communicate with the Japanese spirit. [60]

Zhang Wenhuan also remarked that what the islanders lack is the beauty of rules and constraint within the group. He even expressed the expectation that the order of life shaped by military training could develop into a form of social order. [61]To Zhang, the nation is like a “machine” that requires its “soul” so that it can start to operate. “Japanese spirit,” or “yamato tamashii,” is the force to move this machine, and this force can make Japanese endowed with a “metallic will of perseverance” and make the war “a battle of the soul.”[62] Zhang emphasizes that “it is important first to destroy so that the reconstruction can be possible. The sound of the collapse is pleasurable. Being a man, one cannot shy away. He has to clear away the filth of the old family to rebuild a new one.”[63] Masculinity is exalted to the level of beauty.

To Zhang, it is the responsibility of a man to conduct the task of destruction and reconstruction. “Being a man, it is much better to die in the battlefield than to die in the bed of psycho-neurosis or of illness.” “The passion to join in the battle” belongs to “the will of man.” The imperial soldiers can demonstrate the scientific and spiritual powers of the Asians and drive away the British and American armies in one night. [64]For him, even women have to serve the nation, carrying the same duties as men, showing strong maternal love, exhibiting self sacrifice, and not indulging in vanity, because the entire population of the national subjects has to be mobilized. [65]The position as a man is finally equated to that of the nation.

It is obvious that the discourse of masculinity is associated with the consciousness of the imperial subject. The weak, the private, the irrational, and the feminine old world are to be denounced, while the strong, the public, the rational, the national, and the masculine new world are to be embraced. Along with this masculinity are the aestheticization and romanticization of the war. The war is the means to cleanse the world and to quicken the process of the renewal of the nation. A man should be keenly conscious of his duty as Japanese, behaving as majestically as a brand new military ship, flaring up the fire of justice and to beat up the unjust.[66] In Chen Huoquan’s The Way, there is a clear passion for destruction, death, and rebirth: “the longer the war lasts, the more thoroughly each national subject will be incorporated into the totality, and hence the cultural renewal can have its new start.”[67] Such a masculine tone and joyful embrace of the war reminds us of Guo Moruo’s futurist remarks[68] in the journals established by the Creation Society during the late 1920s in China, and also the rightwing nationalist articles in Qianfeng Magazine (The Avant-garde), also in the 1920s in China.

A Japanese philosopher during the war, Yasuda Yojuro, advocated the concept that “war should be viewed as art,” as part of Japanese “spiritual culture,” and that Japan’s invasion of China was the most “magnificent” and “romantic” act of the twentieth century.[69] Saneatsu Mushanokoji (1885–1976) even praised the aesthetic of sacrifice: “to die in the manner transcending death is the most beautiful death, a death that goes beyond life.”[70] We come to the realization that fascist longings for the sublime beauty of war and of totality were shared by many people from different nations during the first half of the twentieth century and were linked with the logic of double abjection as the execution of the immanent call.

What Georges Bataille said about the experience of the sacred and the accursed share remains alarming for us to ponder. What is sacred? Bataille said, “The sacred is only a privileged moment of communal unity, a moment of the convulsive communication of what is ordinarily stifled.” [71]Bataille also said, “To sacrifice is not to kill but to relinquish and to give. Killing is only the exhibition of a deep meaning.” [72]What is underneath the sacrifice and the killing, according to Bataille, is the urge to leave the ordinary lasting order, to leap, to give oneself to the deity, like giving coal to the furnace and to burn, so that one experiences the moment of sacredness. Therefore, to give up one’s self is to follow the principle of loss and to enter the totality, to partake the shared duty of the community, through a state of ecstasy.

The romantic homogenization into totality, the masculine consciousness, the demand for “a history of blood,”[73] and the aestheticization of war and sacrifice all worked together perfectly with the fascist mentality of the 1940s. Jewish Studies were very popular in Japan at that time; in Japan, the scapegoats were not Jews but the English and American armies, which represented evil and the dark side, while Asians represented the virtuous and bright world.[74] The Pacific War was touted as a battle against the poisonous and greedy atmosphere brought on by the English and American people, and for the restoration of the healthy order for the people of Asia.

Thus, we see a process of the psyche politics — which moves from the abjection of the self and the implanting logic of the gong into the locus of the emptied-out psyche, to the execution of the will of the gong, the sacrifice and the sacred experience — that defines the identity of the self. The writings by Zhang Wenhuan, Chen Huoquan and Zhou Jinpo reflected the contemporary discursive modes of the larger contexts. We see that the status of national subject, the hierarchy of moral reasoning, the division of the public and the private, and the subjective reactions against different political positions — all are delineated by the concept of the gong, the Ge-stell of our time. The equation between the identity and the gong structures a non-self subject as well as a firmly cohered community. Whenever the discourse of the psyche functions, compartmentalization begins. Violence can easily ensue for the cause of justice.

Such logic of immanentism, the discourse of the psyche, worked well for colonial Taiwan, just as the “Zhixin” discourse started by Liang Qichao, Sun Zhongsan, and Du Yaquan, for example, in the first decade of the twentieth century China, also worked well for the New Life Movement led by Jiang Jieshi did during the period of the Nanjing government. The New Life Movement advocated the “Law of the Heart for Revolution” (geming xinfa) and the movement for a clean heart and a clean life. Such logic also worked well for the Cultural Revolution in China, during which filthy thoughts were to be wiped out as poisonous weeds. Such logic certainly also worked well during the Martial Law period in Taiwan, when the second wave of the New Life Movement was enacted and which lasted until the late 1980s. Undoubtedly, such logic of psyche politics would return again should another wave of nation building occur, as what we are witnessing today.

Azuma Shiro 東史郎
Chen Guangxin (Chen, Kuanghsin) 陳光興
Chen Huoquan 陳火泉
Chen Shuibian 陳水扁
Chen Yingzhen 陳映真
Chie Tarumi 垂水千惠
Dadaocheng 大稻埕
Du Yaquan 杜亞泉
Dushu magazine 讀書雜誌
geming xinfa 革命心法
gokoro 心
Gong 公
Goto Shimpei 後藤新平
Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere 大東亞共榮圈
Hanjian 漢奸
Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) 蔣介石
kara-gokoro 唐心
Kodama Gentaro 兒玉源太郎
Komagome Takeshi 駒?武
kominka (imperial subject) 皇民
Li Denghui 李登輝
Liang Qichao 梁啟超
Long Yingzong 龍瑛宗
Lyu Zhenghui 呂正惠
Marukawa Tetsushi 丸山哲史
Masao Maruyama 丸山真男
Motoori Norinaga 本居宣長
National Body 國體
Renjian Publisher 人間出版社
Riben jingshen (Japanese spirit) 日本精神
Riben jingshen 日本精神
samurai (bushido) 武士
Sun Zhongsan 孫中山
The Way (Dao) 道
three in one body 三位一體
Tokieda Motoki 時枝誠記
Ueda Kazutoshi 上田萬年
Wang, Xiang-yuan 王向遠
Xin 心
xiushen 修身
Xu Wenlong 許文龍
yamato tamashii 大和魂
Yamato-gokoro 大和心
Yang Weili 楊威理
Yasuda Yojuro 保田與重郎
Yiu Shengguan 游勝冠
Zhang Liangze 張良澤
Zhang Wenhuan 張文環
Zhixin 治心
Zhou Jinpo 周金波

[1] Jean-Luc Nancy, Inoperative Community (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), 2.
[2] Jean-Luc Nancy, The Inoperative Community, 3.
[3] I have developed this concept of “psyche politics” in my recent book, The Perverted Heart: The Psychical Forms of Modernity ( Taipei: Rhyfield, 2004).
[4] Yoshinori Kobayashi, On Taiwan, Trans. by Lai Qingsong, Xiao Zhiqiang (Taipei: Qianwei Publisher, 2001).
[5]Riben jingshen, the Japanese spirit, is a very loosely used term. Sometimes it is used interchangeably with yatoma spirit, the ways of the warrior, or the samurai, meaning to sacrifice one’s life for the sake of the emperor.
[6]The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, formally announced in August 1940, was an attempt by Japan to create a bloc of Asian nations free of influence from Western nations. The rationale behind Japan’s invasion of Okinawa, Korea, China, and Manchuria, consequently, was to safeguard and to defend the “co-prosperity” of East Asian countries against the U.S. and British armies.
[7]The Japanese army followed its takeover of Nanjing in 1937 with a series of brutal massacres. According to the official report from the Chinese government, around 300,000 people were killed.
[8]The reactions from China to Kobayashi’s book were actually the follow-up of the protest against the textbook event, in which the Japanese Education Bureau literally modified the details of the war time history. The Diary in the Army kept by Azuma Shiro that recorded detailed descriptions of the Nanjing massacre revived the heated resentment from the Chinese public. Series of debates on this issue also appeared in Dushu Magazine in 2000.
[9]See, retrieved July 5, 2004.
[10]Numerous essays appeared in newspapers and on the Web, and two volumes collecting these debates have been published: The Storm of Yoshinori Kobayashi’s On Taiwan (Taipei: Qianwei, 2001), The Three-Legged Person: the Komin Faces in Yoshinori Kobayashi’s On Taiwan (Taipei: Haixia Xueshu, 2002).
[11]For example,;; retrieved August 12, 2004.
[12]On the website for “World United Formosans for Independence,” several articles directly stated their support for Kobayashi and believed that he had understood and presented Li Denghui correctly. For example,;, retrieved August 12, 2004.
[13]Japanese scholar Marukawa Tetsushi published a collection of critical essays in 2001, addressing the fascist and rightwing mentality in Kobayashi’s On Taiwan and positing that his nostalgia was rooted in his father’s generation, that is, the 1940s. The Association for Cultural Studies in Taiwan organized a forum for the writers of this book; the discussion has been recorded at, retrieved on August 12, 2004.
[14]Yoshinori Kobayashi, On Taiwan, 90.
[15]Yoshinori Kobayashi, On Taiwan, 39.
[16]Yoshinori Kobayashi, On Taiwan, 90.
[17]Li Denghui planned to make his visit to Japan on November 23, 2002, to lecture on Japanese spirit. The Japanese government, however, refused to issue him a visa, forcing him to cancel the trip.
[18]Li Denghui, Wushidao Jieti (Interpretations of Bushido), (Taipei: Qianwei, 2004).
[19]Jin, Meiling. & Zhou, Yingming. Ribenah, Taiwanah (Oh, Japan! Oh, Taiwan). Trans. by Zhang Liangzhe (Taipei: Qianwei, 1998), 153.
[20]Jin, Meiling. & Zhou, Yingming, 152.
[21]Chen, Yingzhen. “Editorial Statement,” Taiwan Xiangtu Wenxue: Huangmin Wenxue Zongqingsuan (Taiwan Local Literature: Total Examination of Kominka Literature), (Taipei: Renjian Publisher, 1998), 1-2.
[22] Chen, Yingzhen, 10–11.
[23] Zeng Jianmin, Taiwan Xiangtu Wenxue: Huangmin Wenxue Zongqingsuan (Taiwan Local Literature: Total Examination of Kominka Literature), (Taipei: Renjian Publisher, 1998), 36.
[24]Please see, for example, Lyu, Zhenghui. “Zhimindi de Shanghen” (Wounds of the Colonial Land), Colonial Experience and Taiwanese Literature. Ed. Jiang Zide (Taipei: Yuanliu, 2000), 45–62; Chen, Jianzhong. “Paihuai Buqu de Zhiminzhuyi Yiuling” (the undispersed phantom of the colonialism) (Lianhe, 1998.7), 8–9; Yiu, Shengguan, “Zhuanxiang? Haishi Fanzhimin Lichang de Jianchi” (Conversion? Or the Insistance of the Anti-colonial position?), Conference on Zhang Wenhuan and his Contemporaries (National Museum of Taiwanese Literature. 2003.10), 18–19. Unpublished paper.
[25]Chen Guangxin once pointed out the fact that “the ineffaceable memories and imaginations of the Japanese colonial experience undoubtedly has become important component in the construction of Taiwanese Subjectivity.”, retrieved at 2003.10.6. This statement is true, but we need to be aware of the fact that the distinction between “Benshengren” (people who immigrated into Taiwan before 1945) and “Waishengren” (people who immigrated into Taiwan after 1945) has become a too much simplified umbrella term. There are diverse subjective positions among those people of the obscurely termed “Waishengren” and also those of the “Benshengren.”
[26] Leo T. S. Ching, Becoming “Japanese”: Colonial Taiwan and the Politics of Identity Formation (Berkeley, Los Angeles, London: University of California Press, 2001), 5.
[27]“Taiwan heart” and “Taiwan soul” have been largely used in recent decade to indicate local concern and local spirit. It is the title of a book written by Du Zhengsheng, a historian scholar, the current Minister of Education. “Taiwan heart” and “Taiwan soul” are even made into popular songs, and used especially during election period. Taiwan Independent Fundamentalist, for example, uses “Taiwan soul” as a slogan to interpellate people’s sense of community. The skyscraper Taipei 101 has even been said to be the symbol of “New Taiwan Spirit” and “New Taiwan soul,” representing the spirit to march forward, challenge one’s own limit, and seek for excellence. “Do you love Taiwan?” It is a phrase to test the loyalty to the nation.
[28]Masao Maruyama, Riben Zhengzhi Sixiangshi (Studies on the History of Japanese Political Thoughts), Trans. by Xu Bai and Bao Changlan (Taipei: Shangwu Publisher, 1980).
[29]Martin Heidegger, Identity and Difference. Trans. by Joan Stabaugh (New York, Evanston, and London: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1969), 23-27.
[30]Such notions of education was stated, for example, in the Essential Meaning of the National Body, issued in 1937, and distributed to every school and educational institution throughout the nation.
[31]“National Body” is a concept largely used by Japanese philosophers during the first half of the twentieth century. Please consult Du, Wuzhi, Educational System in the Japanese Colonial Period (Taipei County: Cultural Center of Taipei County, 1997), and Chen Peifeng’s paper on the function of national language, Chen, Peifeng, “Zouxiang yishitongren de ribenminzu zhi Dao” (The ‘Way” that leads toward Equality of Japanese People), Conference on Taiwanese Literary History. Tainan: Cheng-gong University, 2002. Unpublished paper.
[32]Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, “The Aestheticization of Politics,” Heidegger, Art and Politics: The Fiction of the Political. Trans. By Chris Turner (Basil Blackwell, 1990), 69.
[33]Lacoue-Labarthe, “The Aestheticization of Politics,” 70.
[34]Michel Foucault, “Introduction to ‘The Use of Pleasure,’” The Use of Pleasure: The History of Sexuality, Volume Two, Trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Pantheon Books, 1985), 5–6.
[35]Foucault, The Use of Pleasure: The History of Sexuality. Volume Two, p. 27.
[36]Michel Foucault, “Technologies of the Self,” Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. Eds. Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman, Patrick H. Hutton ( London: Tavistock Publications, 1988), 18.
[37]Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” Visual culture: the reader. Evans, Jessica. & Stuart Hall eds. London, Thousand Oaks (New Delhi: SAGE Publications, 1999), 321–322.
[38]Zhang, Wenhuan. “A Group of Doves,” Complete Collections of Zhang Wenhuan’s Writings I (Taizhong: Cultural Center of Taizhong County, 2003), 104.
[39]Long, Yingzong, “Zhiyiu Muguashu de Xiaozhen,” (A Village planted with Guava Trees), Collections of Long Yingzong’s Writings (Taipei: Qianwei, 1990), 48, 61.
[40]Chen, Huoquan, Dao (The Way), Taiwan Wenyi (Taiwan Literary), Vol. 6, Issue 3 (1943.7), 27.
[41]Zhou, Jinpo. “Shuiyan,” Collections of Zhou Jinpo (Taipei: Qianwei, 2002), 5–6.
[42]Long, Yingzong, “Zhiyiu Muguashu de Xiaozhen,” 70.
[43]Zhang, Wenhuan. “Taiwan: The Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier,” Complete Collections of Zhang Wenhuan’s Writings I (Taizhong: Cultural Center of Taizhong County, 2003), 158.
[44]Kobayashi, On Taiwan, 58.
[45]Kosaki, Suzuki Shigetaka, Koyama Iwao, and Nishitani Keiji, “Sekaishiteki tachiba to Nibon” (The standpoint of world history and Japan), Chuo Koron (January 1942), 185. qtd. by Sakai, 167. Naoki Sakai had discussed how Koyama and Kosaka expressed the same arguments in the forum in 1941 that all moral action is defined by the nation, and that a nation cannot determine its future unless it maintains its subjectivity. See Naoki Sakai, “Modernity and Its Critique: The Problem of Universalism and Particularism.” Translation & Subjectivity: On “Japan” and Cultural Nationalism. Minneapolis & London: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
[46]Chen Huoquan (1908-1999) was born in Lu Gang. He entered the Camphor Factory in 1934, and was awarded for his invention of the new distillation method in 1941. What he described in The Way was more or less his biographical account.
[47]Chen Huoquan, The Way, 33.
[48]Tokieda Motoki, “Japanese Language Policy in Korea,” Japanese Language, vol. II, no. 8 (1942.8); qtd. in Komagome Takeshi, The Cultural Totality under the Colonial Imperial Japan (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1996), 335.
[49]Chen Huoquan, “Song of Diligence,” in the journal of Taiwan Monopoly Bureau 1939, qtd. in Chie, Tarumi. Taiwan Literature Written in Japanese (Taipei: Qianwei, 1998), 79.
[50]According to the Japanese mythology, the god of sun (Amaterasu-o-mi-kami) is the ancestor of the royal family, a line that has lasted for many centuries. The fact that the emperor is said to be the true descendent of the god of sun stabilizes the sacredness of the nation and also the position of the emperor.
[51]Chen Huoquan, The Way, 21.
[52]In 1941, Zhang Wenhuan (1909-1978) founded the quarterly magazine Taiwan Literature, which lasted for two years and six months. His play “Yanji” was put on stage in 1934 and was very popular. Although Zhang has been described as an anti-colonial writer, a close reading of his work reveals a very clear pro-emperor stance, a position common at the time.
[53]Zhang, Wenhuan, “Burning Power,” Complete Collections of Zhang Wenhuan’s Writings I (Taizhong: Cultural Center of Taizhong County, 2003), 176.
[54]Zhang, Wenhuan, “Thoughts on Dadaocheng,” Complete Collections of Zhang Wenhuan’s Writings I (Taizhong: Cultural Center of Taizhong County, 2003), 21–2.
[55]Zhang, Wenhuan, “Thoughts on Dadaocheng,” 25.
[56]Zhang, Wenhuan, “Thoughts on Dadaocheng,” 25.
[57]Kobayashi, On Taiwan, 39.
[58]Chen Huoquan, The Way, 40.
[59]Chen Huoquan, The Way, 23–24.
[60]Chen Huoquan, The Way, 31.
[61]Zhang, Wenhuan, “Burning Power,” 176.
[62]Zhang, Wenhuan, “Taiwan, The Unsinkable Aircraft Carrier,” Complete Collections of Zhang Wenhuan’s Writings I (Taizhong: Cultural Center of Taizhong County, 2003), 158.
[63]Zhang, Wenhuan, “A Group of Doves,” Complete Collections of Zhang Wenhuan’s Writings I (Taizhong: Cultural Center of Taizhong County, 2003), 104.
[64]Zhang, Wenhuan, “A Group of Doves,” 104. Similar urge for masculinity and manhood during the wartime can also be seen in Zhou, Jinpo, “Zhiyuanbing.” (volunteer) Collections of Zhou Jinpo (Taipei: Qianwei, 2002), 13–36; Zhang, Wenhuan. “Three Types of Joy,” Complete Collections of Zhang Wenhuan’s Writings I (Taizhong: Cultural Center of Taizhong County, 2003), 67; Zhou, Jinpo. “Guanyu Zhengbingzhi” (Concern the Conscription System), Collections of Zhou Jinpo (Taipei: Qianwei, 2002), 236–237.
[65]Zhang, Wenhuan. “On the Question of Women,” Complete Collections of Zhang Wenhuan’s Writings I (Taizhong: Cultural Center of Taizhong County, 2003), 122.
[66]Zhang, Wenhuan. “Letter to Korean Writers,” Complete Collections of Zhang Wenhuan’s Writings I (Taizhong: Cultural Center of Taizhong County, 2003), 190.
[67]Chen Huoquan, The Way, 35.
[68]For example, Guo, Moruo. “Worship for the Sun,” Complete Works of Guo Moruo, Vol. I. (Beijing: Renmin Publisher, 1982), 100.
[69]See Wang, Xiang-yuan, Bibudui he Qinhua Zhanzheng. (Pen Army and the Invasion of China (Beijing: Beijing Normal University Press, 1999), 11-14.
[70]Wang, Xiang-yuan, 17.
[71]Georges Bataille, “The Sacred,” Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927–1939. Edited and with an introduction by Allan Stoekl. Trans. Allan Stoekl (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 242.
[72]Georges Bataille, “Sacrifice, the Festival, and the Principles of the Sacred World,” Theory of Religion. Trans. by Robert Hurley (New York: Zone Books, 1992), 49.
[73]Chen Huoquan, The Way, 40.
[74]Yang Weili, Shuang-Xiang Ji (A Tale of Two Homes). Trans. by Chen Yingzhen (Taipei: Renjian Publisher, 1995), 99-117.