Japanese Wongs and Chinese Ohayo

Trio Ohayo was a trio active in France during the thirties. As is obvious from their name, they always presented themselves as a Japanese troupe, and journalists reviewed their acts as such, sometimes commenting that they were successfully mixing old Japanese traditions with modern European athleticism.

However, sometimes, confusion occurred as in this article from Comoedia (March 4, 1933):
Comoedia (Paris. 1907)
Comoedia (Paris. 1907)
Source: gallica.bnf.fr

At the present stage of my research, this is the only mistake I found concerning the Ohayo Trio, and it can easily be attributed to lazy journalism.

Here is a photo of the Trio Ohayo, from a circus program:

One cannot stop noticing that one of the acrobats does have Caucasian features, showing that ethnic or national definitions were fluid in the circus professional milieu and in the spectators gaze.

Let’s turn our attention to the Wongs. They were a family troupe of acrobats active in the thirties in France, and it seems very probable that they were the same circus artists who went to work in North America after the Second world War (see the French version of this blog entry for the evidence). Again, their name and our documentation show that they were Chinese, but, at this stage of our research, for their first appearance in France, they were called « Troupe japonaise Wong » in advertisements posted in newspapers. In this case, no mistake, but a conscious decision by circus managers.

The misrepresentation  seems to have been corrected quickly, but I wonder what came to the minds of the circus manager and the members of the troupe. For the moment I have no answer to my question.

Both anecdotes presented here show how racial, national and ethnic definitions can be transitory and fluid, intentionally or not, for honorable reasons or because of voluntary misrepresentation.

Glane bibliographique: L’invention de la race

Nicolas BANCEL, Thomas DAVID, Dominic THOMAS (dir.) - L'invention de la race aux éditions La DecouverteN. Bancel et al. (éd.), L’invention de la race ; des représentations scientifiques aux exhibitions populaires

La Découverte
Collection Recherches
ISBN : 9782707178923
2014, 380 pages

Plusieurs chapitres semblent directement concerner nos recherches (Je recopie, en ajoutant des liens, ces extraits de la table des matières depuis le site internet de l’éditeur):

III / Transcription et exhibition des races
13. Du cabinet de curiosité à la « Vénus hottentote » : la longue histoire des exhibitions humaines, par Gilles Boëtsch et Pascal Blanchard
L’enchantement de l’anormalité
Le désenchantement de l’anormalité
Le passage du « mirabilé » au chaînon manquant
Le passage d’un temps à un autre temps
14. Race, forains, handicap et phénomènes de foire, par Robert Bogdan
Le monde du divertissement
Une représentation trompeuse
Les modes de présentation
Les catégories de présentation exotique
Études de cas de certains phénomènes
Conclusion
15. La vue, l’ouïe et les autres sens : hiérarchies raciales dans les expositions universelles américaines, par Robert W. Rydell
Exposition universelle : la vue
Les sons associés à la race
Appréhender les expositions universelles à travers le toucher, le goût et l’odorat
L’exposition universelle : un creuset de sensations
16. Les exhibitions humaines dans les expositions universelles : entre catégorisation scientifique et exotisme ? World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893, par Catherine Hodeir
Exotisme et racialisme
Derrière le décor
Un conflit entre officiels et entrepreneurs privés
Une situation coloniale inédite
Le destin des indigènes pendant et après l’exposition

(…)

18. L’exhibition des races dans l’exposition aux St. Louis Anthropology Days de 1904, par Fabrice Delsahut
Race et anatomie ou la « mal-mesure de l’Homme »
Race et éducation ou l’« Americanized Indian »
La recherche de l’« athlète naturel »
Race et melting-pot ou l’histoire de la « race américaine »
Conclusion
19. Des Esquimaux au muséum, un Pygmée dans une cage… et, partout, le darwinisme social, par Herman Lebovics
La nature au service du capitalisme entrepreneurial américain
Le Muséum américain d’histoire naturelle et les Esquimaux
L’histoire d’Ota Benga
Conclusion

(…)

21. Et la race devint spectacle. Généalogies du zoo humain en Europe et aux États-Unis (1842-1913), par Nicolas Bancel
En Europe, classer et hiérarchiser
Les registres de l’altérité
Aux États-Unis, l’initiative généalogique de Barnum
Divergences généalogiques… et convergences du modèle de l’ethnic show

(J’ai appris l’existence de ce livre grâce au carnet de recherches Carnets du centre Japon)

Les Wong étaient-ils japonais ?

Du 22 mai au 6 juin 1931, on peut lire la petite annonce suivante dans le Figaro :
Le Figaro (Paris. 1854)
Le Figaro (Paris. 1854)
Source: gallica.bnf.fr

Qui était cette troupe japonaise Wong ? Assurément, Wong n’est pas un nom japonais. Une recherche sur internet strictement réduite à ces mots « Troupe japonaise Wong » ne donne pas d’autres résultats que cette annonce, par l’intermédiaire de Gallica.

Toutefois, l’index du journal des Soeurs Vesque, cet instrument précieux, donne plusieurs noms similaires en 1935 et 1936,  4 et 5 années plus tard : tous ces différents Wong travaillent pour Médrano, comme ceux de 1931, et il ne semble pas déraisonnable de faire l’hypothèse qu’il s’agit des mêmes personnes, en tout ou en partie.

Incidemment, on admirera la précision de l’information des Vesque et leur soif d’exhaustivité. Elles vont jusqu’à noter que, en voyage, elles voient en 1938 à Beauvais une affiche vieille d’un an pour une tournée de Médrano, et elles en recueillent le programme.

Revenons à nos Wong. Je ne serais pas étonné si cette troupe des années 30 était la même qu’on peut voir documentée aux États-Unis après-guerre : par exemple, dans un programme de télévision de Disney en 1956. La photo ci-dessous offre une belle et amusante démonstration d’esprit de famille. Elle date, quant à elle, de « la fin des annees 50 ».

« Here’s the Jim Wong Troupe in the late ’50’s, doing the handstand on the arms is Jackie, Sung, the understander, and Lum, doing the handstand on the head are Jackie, & Carl’s Uncles( …).doing the plange is Joe »

Source de l’image: Yesterday’s Towns

Sans surprise, les documents américains confirment ce que leur nom annonçait : les Wong sont bien chinois.

Pourquoi, alors, sont-ils appelés « troupe japonaise » en 1931 ? Simple décision publicitaire ? Mais alors pourquoi ne pas avoir changé leur nom ? Modification de dernière minute ? Les Wong auraient remplacé une vraie troupe japonaise qui avait fait défaut et il ne fallait pas décevoir le public en altérant trop le programme ?

À cause de l’année 1931, je me suis demandé s’il pouvait y avoir un rapport avec l’actualité internationale, précisément l’annexion de la Mandchourie par le Japon. mais cela ne semble pas possible parce que l’incident de Mukden ne date que de septembre 1931, et la troupe officiait déjà à Paris en mai 1931.

C’est donc sur cette frustration que ma recherche électronique et cette entrée de blog doivent s’arrêter ; j’espère qu’un jour des recherches en archives mèneront un peu plus loin. Cette anecdote illustre en tout cas les choix et possibilités qu’avaient les directeurs de cirque et les artistes qu’ils employaient pour décider de leurs noms et de la façon dont ils se présentaient : c’était un jeu constant d’identités changeantes, objet de négociations et de redéfinitions contractuelles, loin d’être éternelles.

Information supplémentaire (11/6/2015)

Le populaire 23/12/1933
Le Populaire (Paris)
Le Populaire (Paris)
Source: gallica.bnf.fr

Information supplémentaire (21/6/2015)

Voir la version anglaise de cette entrée de carnet

Petite annonce bibliographique

Voici une information postée hier sur la liste électronique H-Japan, qui intéressera peut-être les lecteurs de ce blog:

Member Publications: New Books on Race, Ethnicity and Racism in Early Modern, Modern, and Contemporary Japan [discussion]

Apologies for cross-posting

Dear List members,
Please allow me to draw your attention to the following publications:
New Books on Race, Ethnicity and Racism in Early Modern, Modern, and Contemporary Japan
Rotem Kowner
From White to Yellow (vol. I): The Japanese in European Racial Thought, 1300-1735 (McGill-Queen’s University Press, December 2014).

Rotem Kowner and Walter Demel (editors)
Race and Racism in Modern East Asia (vol. II): Interactions, Nationalism, Gender and Lineage (Brill, May 2015).

Rotem Kowner and Walter Demel (editors)
Race and Racism in Modern East Asia (vol. I): Western and Eastern Constructions (Brill, paperback edition, September 2014).

————————————————————

 

From White to Yellow (vol. I): The Japanese in European Racial Thought, 1300-1735 (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2014, 706 pp.) ISBN-10: 0773544550; ISBN-13: 978-0773544550

Rotem Kowner (author)

From White to Yellow (vol. I): The Japanese in European Racial Thought, 1300-1735

When Europeans first landed in Japan they encountered people they perceived as white-skinned and highly civilized, but these impressions did not endure. Gradually the Europeans’ positive impressions faded away and Japanese were seen as yellow-skinned and relatively inferior. Accounting for this dramatic transformation, I examine of the evolution of European interpretations of the Japanese and the emergence of discourses about race in early modern Europe. Transcending the conventional focus on Africans and Jews within the rise of modern racism, I seek to demonstrate that the invention of race did not emerge in a vacuum in eighteenth-century Europe, but rather was a direct product of earlier discourses of the « Other. » All in all, I contend that the racial discourse on the Japanese, alongside the Chinese, played a major role in the rise of the modern concept of race. While challenging Europe’s self-possession and sense of centrality, the discourse delayed the eventual consolidation of a hierarchical worldview in which Europeans stood immutably at the apex. Drawing from a vast array of primary sources, I also attempted to trace the racial roots of the modern clash between Japan and the West.

For further details: http://www.mqup.ca/from-white-to-yellow-products-9780773544550.php

Table of contents

Preface
Introduction

PHASE I – SPECULATION: Pre-Encounter Knowledge of the Japanese (1300-1543)
1 The Emergence of “Cipangu” and Its Precursory Ethnography
2 The “Cipanguese” at the Opening of the Age of Discovery

PHASE II – OBSERVATION: A Burgeoning Discourse of Initial Encounters (1543-1640)
3 Initial Observations of the Japanese
4 The Japanese Position in Contemporary Hierarchies
5 Concrete Mirrors of a New Human Order
6 “Race” and Its Cognitive Limits during the Phase of Observation

PHASE III – RECONSIDERATION: Antecedents of a Mature Discourse (1640-1735)
7 Dutch Reappraisal of the Japanese Body and Origins
8 Power, Status, and the Japanese Position in the Global Order
9 In Search of a New Taxonomy: Botany, Medicine, and the Japanese
10 “Race” and Its Perceptual Limits during the Phase of Reconsideration

Conclusion: The Discourse of Race in Early Modern Europe and the Japanese Case
Amazon sites:
http://www.amazon.ca/White-Yellow-Japanese-European-1300-1735/dp/0773544550/ref=tmm_pap_sw…
or
http://www.amazon.com/White-Yellow-Japanese-European-1300-1735/dp/0773544550/ref=la_B001HP…

 

Race and Racism in Modern East Asia (vol. II): Interactions, Nationalism, Gender and Lineage (Brill, 2015; 674 pp). ISBN-10: 9004292926; ISBN-13: 978-9004292925

Rotem Kowner and Walter Demel (editors)

Race and Racism in Modern East Asia (vol. II): Interactions, Nationalism, Gender and Lineage

In this sequel to the volume, Race and Racism in Modern East Asia: Western and Eastern Constructions, we examine in depth interactions between Western racial constructions of East Asians and local constructions of race and their outcomes in modern times. Focusing on China, Japan and the two Koreas, we also analyze the close ties between race, racism and nationalism, as well as the links race has had with gender and lineage in the region. Written by some of the field’s leading authorities, our 23-chapter volume offers a sweeping overview and analysis of racial constructions and racism in modern and contemporary East Asia that is seemingly unsurpassed in previous scholarship.

For further details: http://www.brill.com/products/book/race-and-racism-modern-east-asia-0
Table of contents

[*] chapters relevant to Japan

Preface

[*] 1 Introduction: The Synthesis of Foreign and Indigenous Constructions of Race in Modern East Asia and Its Actual Operation
Rotem Kowner and Walter Demel

PART I: ANTECEDENTS
2 East Asians in the Linnaean Taxonomy: Sources and Implications of a Racial Image
Rotem Kowner and Christina Skott
3 Constructing Racial Theories on East Asians as a Transnational “Western” Enterprise, 1750–1850
Walter Demel
[*] 4 The ‘Races’ of East Asia in Nineteenth-Century European Encyclopaedias
Georg Lehner
[*] 5 The Racial Image of the Japanese in the Western Press Published in Japan, 1861–1881
Olavi K. Fält

PART II: INTERACTIONS
6 The Propagation of Racial Thought in Nineteenth-Century China
Daniel Barth
[*] 7 Learning from the South: Japan’s Racial Construction of Southern Chinese, 1895–1941
Huei-Ying Kuo
[*] 8 “The Great Question of the World Today”: Britain, the Dominions, East Asian Immigration and the Threat of Race War, 1905–1911
Antony Best
[*] 9 “Uplifting the Weak and Degenerated Races of East Asia”: American and Indigenous Views of Sport and Body in Early Twentieth-Century East Asia
Stefan Hübner
[*] 10 Racism under Negotiation: The Japanese Race in the Nazi-German Perspective
Gerhard Krebs
[*] 11 Discourses of Race and Racism in Modern Korea, 1890s–1945
Vladimir Tikhonov
12 The United States Arrives: Racialization and Racism in Post-1945 South Korea
Nadia Y. Kim
13 A Post-Communist Coexistence in Northeast Asia? Mutual Racial Attitudes among Russians and Indigenous Peoples of Siberia
David C. Lewis

PART III: NATIONALISM
14 Nationalism and Internationalism: Sino-American Racial Perceptions of the Korean War
Lü Xun
15 Gangtai Patriotic Songs and Racialized Chinese Nationalism
Yinghong Cheng
[*] 16 Japanese as Both a “Race” and a “Non-Race”: The Politics of Jinshu and Minzoku and the Depoliticization of Japaneseness
Yuko Kawai
[*] 17 Ethnic Nationalism in Postwar Japan: Nihonjinron and Its Racial Facets
Rotem Kowner and Harumi Befu
18 Ethnic Nationalism and Internationalism in the North Korean Worldview
Tatiana Gabroussenko

PART IV: GENDER AND LINEAGE
19 In the Name of the Master: Race, Nationalism and Masculinity in Chinese Martial Arts Cinema
Kai-man Chang
[*] 20 Sexualized Racism, Gender and Nationalism: The Case of Japan’s Sexual Enslavement of Korean “Comfort Women”
Bang-soon L. Yoon
[*] 21 “The Guilt Feeling That You Exist”: War, Racism and Indisch-Japanese Identity Formation
Aya Ezawa
22 ‘The “Amerasian” Knot: Transpacific Crossings of “GI Babies” from Korea to the United States
W. Taejin Hwang

PART V: CONCLUSIONS
23 The Essence and Mechanisms of Race and Racism in Modern East Asia
Rotem Kowner and Walter Demel
Amazon site:
http://www.amazon.com/Race-Racism-Modern-East-Asia/dp/9004292926/
Now in paperback edition!
Race and Racism in Modern East Asia (vol. I): Western and Eastern Constructions (Brill, 2014; 618 pp.)  ISBN-10: 9004285504;ISBN-13: 978-9004285507

Rotem Kowner and Walter Demel (editors)

 

Race and Racism in Modern East Asia (vol. I): Western and Eastern Constructions (paperback)

In Race and Racism in Modern East Asia: Western and Eastern Constructions we juxtapose Western racial constructions of East Asians with constructions of race and their outcomes in modern East Asia. It is the first endeavor to explicitly and coherently link constructions of race and racism in both regions. These constructions have not only played a decisive role in shaping the relations between the West and East Asia since the mid nineteenth century, but also exert substantial influence on current relations and mutual images in both the East-West nexus and East Asia. Written by some of the field’s leading authorities, this 21-chapter volume offers an analysis of these constructions, their evolution and their interrelations.

For further details: http://www.brill.com/products/book/race-and-racism-modern-east-asia

Table of contents

Preface

[*] 1 Introduction: Modern East Asia and the Rise of Racial Thought: Possible Links, Unique Features, and Unsettled Issues
Rotem Kowner and Walter Demel

PART I: WESTERN RACE THEORIES, RACIAL IMAGES AND RACISM
[*] 2 Early Modern European Divisions of Mankind and East Asians, 1500-1750
Walter Demel and Rotem Kowner
[*] 3 How the “Mongoloid Race” Came into Being: Late Eighteenth-Century Constructions of East Asians in Europe
Walter Demel
[*] 4 Between Contempt and Fear: Western Racial Constructions of East Asians since 1800
Rotem Kowner
[*] 5 “A Very Great Gulf”: Late Victorian British Diplomacy and Race in East Asia
T.G. Otte
[*] 6 Pan-Mongolians at Twilight: East Asia and Race in Russian Modernism, 1890-1921
Susanna Soojung Lim
[*] 7 National Identity and Race in Post-Revolutionary Russia: Pil’niak’s Travelogues from Japan and China
Alexander Bukh
8 Class, Race, Floating Signifier: American Media Imagine the Chinese, 1870-1900
Lenore Metrick-Chen
9 Racism for Beginners: Constructions of Chinese in Twentieth Century Belgian Comics
Idesbald Goddeeris
10 Race, Imperialism, and Reconstructing Selves: Late Nineteenth Century Korea in European Travel Literature
Huajeong Seok
[*] 11 Race, Culture and the Reaction to the Japanese Victory of 1905 in the English-Speaking World
Philip Towle

PART II: EAST ASIAN RACE THEORIES, RACIAL POLICIES AND RACISM
12 A Certain Whiteness of Being: Chinese Perceptions of Self by the Beginning of European Contact
Don J. Wyatt
13 Racial Discourse and Utopian Visions in Nineteenth Century China
Sufen Sophia Lai
14 The Discourse of Race in Twentieth-Century China
Frank Dikötter
15 Racist South Korea? Diverse but not Tolerant of Diversity
Gi-Wook Shin
[*] 16 Skin Color Melancholy in Modern Japan: Male Elites’ Racial Experiences Abroad, 1880s-1950s
Ayu Majima
[*] 17 Anatomically Speaking: The Kubo Incident and the Paradox of Race in Colonial Korea
Hoi-eun Kim
[*] 18 Who Classified Whom, and for What Purpose? The “Japanese” in Northeast China in the Age of Empire
Mariko Asano Tamanoi
[*] 19 Race and International Law in Japan’s New Order in East Asia, 1938-1945
Urs Matthias Zachmann
[*] 20 East Asia’s “Melting-Pot”: Reevaluating Race Relations in Japan’s Colonial Empire
Yukiko Koshiro
[*] 21 Categorical Confusion: President Obama as a Case Study of Racialized Practices in Contemporary Japan
Christine R. Yano
Amazon site:
http://www.amazon.com/Race-Racism-Modern-East-Asia/dp/9004285504/