Bodies in the Plural

With the rise of nation-states in East Asia, nationalism and collective conscience have also surged. How have such sentiments been cultivated? How have distinct categories of peoples—the Chinese or the Japanese, for example—been defined? And how has a shared sense of belonging and togetherness been communicated and maintained across large populations? In recent East Asian history, and still today, organized efforts of nation-building have been carried out through governmental agencies.

In addition, social engineering projects of identity-formation have included everyday practices that are as seemingly trivial as wearing uniforms, celebrating cultural festivals, etc. In both China and Japan, ethnic minorities living in the borderland have been officially recognized, although often subsumed under the construct of a normalized “national” identity. Public spaces which large crowds of people pass through, such as train stations, are closely regulated and proper etiquette is expected in such spaces.


Image: WU Tien-chang. Born Taiwan, 1956. We're All in the Same Boat. 2002. Digital C-print. 28 1/2 x 49 in. (72.4 x 124.5 cm). Promised gift of Joan Lebold Cohen, class of 1954, in honor of Jerome A. Cohen