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The Proletarian Gamble


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A Marxist interpretation of Korean migrant workers' struggles in Japan during the 1920s and 1930s

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Proletarian Gamble 1
1. The Birth of the Uncontrollable Colonial Surplus: A Prehistory of the Korean Problem 25
2. The Colonial Surplus and the Virtual Pauper 45
3. Intermediary Exploitation: Korean Workers in the Day Labor Market 67
4. Urban Expropriation and the Threat of the Outside: Korean Tenant Struggles against Housing Insecurity 94
5. The Obscene, Violent Supplement of State Power: Korean Welfare and Class Warfare in Interwar Japan 130
6. At the Gates of Unemployment: The Struggles of Unemployed Korean Workers 169
Epilogue 204
Appendix 1. Korean Self-help and Social Work Organizations in Japan 217
Appendix 2. A Timeline of Anti-Soaikai Activity 227
Notes 231
Bibliography 269
Index 287

About the Author

Ken C. Kawashima is Associate Professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto.


"This book establishes Ken C. Kawashima not simply as one of the best students of modern Japanese history in the world, but as one with a rare facility for effective use of theory amid a plethora of primary sources in Japanese and Korean. This book illustrates at once a very detailed daily life of Korean day workers in various Japanese cities, a study thoroughly at home with both modern Japanese and Korean history, and an author who is fully versed in a wide body of theory--Marx, Benjamin, Althusser, Foucault, eiuek, and many others. It is simply the best book in East Asian history that I have read in many years."--Bruce Cumings, University of Chicago "The Proletarian Gamble is the most penetrating analysis of Japanese discrimination against the Koreans that I know of; its scope goes well beyond the confines of Japanese social history or Marxist historiography. Ken C. Kawashima shows how state agencies sought to fulfill the humanistic claims of Japanese colonialism by individualizing the Korean workers and integrating them into the multiethnic nation: they took advantage of the workers' contingent life conditions. By viewing racism as an aspect of the micropolitics of individualization and totalization, Kawashima criticizes the foundational premises of liberalism and the institutionalized framework in which much of area studies is still conducted."--Naoki Sakai, author of Translation and Subjectivity: On "Japan" and Cultural Nationalism

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