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Imperial Mobility

Circulation as History in East Asia under Empire

Kate McDonald

Keywords: GLOBAL HISTORY; HISTORIOGRAPHY; IMPERIALISM; JAPAN; LIBERALISM; NETWORKS; RAILWAYS; TRANSPORTATION

Histories of modern mobility often assume that modern forms of movement arrived in East Asia as part of a universal process of historical development. This article shows that the valorization of modern mobility in East Asia emerged out of the specific context of Euro-American imperial encroachment and Japanese imperial expansion. Through an examination of the tropes of opening and connecting, the article argues that the mobility of the modern can be understood as an “imperial” mobility in two senses: one, as a key component in European, American, and Japanese arguments for the legitimacy of empire; and two, as a global theory of history that constituted circulation as a measure of historical difference.

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