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Inheritance of Loss

China, Japan, and the Political Economy of Redemption after Empire

Inheritance of Loss

China, Japan, and the Political Economy of Redemption after Empire

How do contemporary generations come to terms with losses inflicted by imperialism, colonialism, and war that took place decades ago? How do descendants of perpetrators and victims establish new relations in today’s globalized economy? With Inheritance of Loss, Yukiko Koga approaches these questions through the unique lens of inheritance, focusing on Northeast China, the former site of the Japanese puppet state Manchukuo, where municipal governments now court Japanese as investors and tourists. As China transitions to a market-oriented society, this region is restoring long-neglected colonial-era structures to boost tourism and inviting former colonial industries to create special economic zones, all while inadvertently unearthing chemical weapons abandoned by the Imperial Japanese Army at the end of World War II.
Inheritance of Loss chronicles these sites of colonial inheritance––tourist destinations, corporate zones, and mustard gas exposure sites––to illustrate attempts by ordinary Chinese and Japanese to reckon with their shared yet contested pasts. In her explorations of everyday life, Koga directs us to see how the violence and injustice that occurred after the demise of the Japanese Empire compound the losses that later generations must account for, and inevitably inherit.

328 pages | 37 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2016

Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute

Anthropology: Cultural and Social Anthropology

Asian Studies: East Asia, General Asian Studies

History: Asian History


“Most discussions of coming to terms with the past have taken the Holocaust as their paradigm. Koga’s important new book looks elsewhere and comes to strikingly original conclusions. Focused on three cities in Northeast China and set in the aftermath of Japanese empire, Inheritance of Loss goes beyond familiar references to the politics of postwar memory and points us toward the political economy of redemption in the wake of colonial modernity. This is a fresh and brilliant intervention that will be of interest to scholars of trauma and memory as well as globalization and postcolonial studies.”

Michael Rothberg, University of California, Los Angeles

Inheritance of Loss is a moving, powerful, beautifully rendered ethnography that addresses timely questions with surprising answers. China’s market economy has led to the commodification of Japanese imperial remains and the reincorporation of former colonial industries, bringing Japanese tourists and investors alike back to China. Yet this postcolonial encounter through the capitalization of history leads not to an erasure of the past but to painful ironies of reckoning with its memories and traumas. Koga’s engagement with ‘after empire’—what she calls the political economy of redemption—offers a brilliant Benjaminian reading of our times.”

Lisa Rofel, University of California, Santa Cruz

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Prologue and Acknowledgments

1. Introduction: Colonial Inheritance and the Topography of After Empire
2. Inheritance and Betrayal: Historical Preservation and Colonial Nostalgia in Harbin
3. Memory, Postmemory, Inheritance: Postimperial Topography of Guilt in Changchun
4. The Political Economy of Redemption: Middle-Class Dreams in the Dalian Special Economic Zone
5. Industrious Anxiety: Labor and Landscapes of Modernity in Dalian
6. Epilogue: Deferred Reckoning and the Double Inheritance



Society for Urban, National, and Transnational/Global Anthropology (SUNTA): Anthony Leeds Prize

The Society for East Asian Anthropology: Francis L.K. Hsu Book Prize

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