Eating People and Selling Taiwan.  W. Wykeham Myers, Indigenized Orientalism, and Culture Wars during the 1890s


Centring upon an extensive Memorandum sent to the British government by a leading foreign resident of Taiwan (Dr W. Wykeham Myers), the paper examines the international and island contexts of developments in the months leading to and during the Japanese colonisation of Formosa. It suggests that an atmosphere of emergency and desperation gave rise to a chaos of possibilities in the minds and attitudes of Chinese authorities and residents, indigenous communities, and western expatriate residents who for a time hoped and planned for an alternative to Japanese colonisation. In the Anglophone perspective as exemplified by Myers there emerged the notion of a British intervention that might itself embrace at least a commercial colonialism, and in this regard arguments emerged that forged links between indigenous peoples, cannibalism, and a failure of Chinese authority and culture on its island frontier. This account emphasises the anglophone interventions because Britain was far and away the most powerful commercial and naval power in the region and had forged a deepening commercial and diplomatic relationship with Japan since the 1850s. There was a strong assumption that Chinese authority limited British commercial interests, that Japanese control would at the very least maintain them, and that thus a second-best (but possibly optimum) outcome would be a controlled Japanese take-over. In also examining the international diplomacy and political economy involved in the entry of Japan, the paper develops an argument that bring together cultural economic and political forces into an historical conjuncture.

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