Abstract

What can we learn today from the contacts between the ethnic others who met as objects of colonial comparison? Using dialogic texts (letters, special issues of journals, and roundtables) produced in colonial Korea and Taiwan, this article asks “Can ‘Others’ meet without comparisons?” in order to investigate the “colonial contacts” of East Asia. In doing so, its perspective diverges from previous studies in three ways: first, by focusing on the relationship between the colonized rather than between the colonizer and the colonized; second, by conceptualizing the moments of empathy between the colonized as a function of their respective differences and particularities rather than their homogeneity as targets of oppression; and third, by examining the ambivalence of the colonized rather than the colonizer.

The moments when the colonized met according to the norms of colonial power were moments of ambivalent empathy when the colonized “competed yet empathized” and found themselves “compared yet implicated.” At the very moment, they also shared the empathy of “unavoidable discomfort” and “trembling before untranslatability.” An examination of these ambivalent moments thus makes visible the potential for Korea and Taiwan—or two “Others”—to come into contact through “particularity and difference” in a way that diverges from the path of colonial power.

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