Nomadic Borderlands: Imperial Japan and the Origins of Ethnic Autonomy in China


Henry Luce Foundation/ ACLS Program in China Studies Postdoctoral Fellowships


History and Asian Studies


The multiethnic landscape of the Mongol territories posed fundamental problems in governance for Nationalists, Japanese, and Communists in Northeast China. This project focuses on how Mongol elites collaborated with Japanese occupiers in pursuing ethnic cleansing and environmental planning to mark an internal border in this zone of mixed settlement. This border still defines the eastern limits of Inner Mongolia today. Japanese imperialism transformed an earlier policy of assimilation—aimed at integrating frontiers into the Republican nation-state—into a blueprint for autonomous regions. Instead of seeing the origins of Communist rule as forged in the war against imperialism, the project points to the significance of the Japanese occupation in shaping the ethnic and ecological bounds of modern China.