Arnaud NANTA is an Associate Professor at the French National Center for Scientific Research, specializing in the history of Japanese physical anthropology and archaeology. He also works on colonial knowledge in Korea during the Japanese colonial period. His recent publications include: ‘Savoirs et colonies: l'archéologie et l'anthropologie japonaises en Corée’ (Scholarship and Colonies: Japanese Archeology and Anthropology in Korea), in La société japonaise devant la montée du militarisme (Japanese Society Facing the Rise of Militarism) (Philippe Picquier, 2007): 21–31; ‘1917–1920-nen, Ōsaka de no Kōkogaku Hakkutsu to Kigen Ronsō’ (Archeological Excavations at Osaka and Debates about ‘Origins’, 1917–1920), Seibutsugaku-shi Kenkyū (The Journal of History of Biology) 77: 95–110 (2006) and 78: 1–17 (2007). He can be reached at the Centre de recherches sur le Japon, EHESS, 105 Boulevard Raspail, 75006 Paris, France, or by e-mail at email@example.com
This article will attempt to show how Japanese identity was conceptualised within the theories and models of Japanese physical anthropology after the fall of the colonial empire in 1945 as part of the broader debate about the ‘origins of the Japanese’. Whereas at the time of the colonial empire, researchers considered that the ‘Japanese people’ had arrived on the archipelago during the proto-history of the archipelago, after the late 1940s, major researchers such as Hasebe Kotondo, president of the Tokyo Anthropological Society, stated that the Japanese had never known any interbreeding and form an uninterrupted line of descent since the Palaeolithic period. This theory was transformed into a model during the 1950s and 1960s by Suzuki Hisashi of the University of Tokyo, using the concept of microevolution and the craniometrical analysis of thousands of skeletons discovered after the war. It then became the dominant paradigm from the 1950s to the 1970s. However, at the same time, researchers from old colonial universities in Taipei and Seoul formulated an opposing model, based on the work of Kanaseki Takeo, who thought the Japanese people were the product of interbreeding, as the excavations he led in western Japan tended to show. This idea was further developed by Hanihara Kazurō in his Dual Structure Model and then by several geneticists from the 1980s–1990s onwards. This, therefore, permitted an alternative to the ‘homogeneous people’ paradigm, but at the same time showed a persistence towards the concept of ‘race’ within the research on ethnogenesis, as well as what must be called an obsession with identity that goes beyond variations between models in physical anthropology.