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  • 2016maddoxphd

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The strong devour the weak: tracing the genocidal dynamics of violence in the Japanese Empire, 1937-1945

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2016
Number of pages310
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • Economic and Social Research Council
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The Japanese Empire, like other empires, had a potential for extreme group-destructive violence. This potential was unleashed at times between 1937 and 1945 as the Japanese military, engaged in wars fought, ostensibly, for the liberation and reconstruction of an ‘Asia for the Asiatics’, embraced measures which paradoxically allowed for the elimination of substantial parts, and sometimes the whole, of Asian population groups in specific areas. Despite the genocidal undercurrents of this violence, Imperial Japan has not typically been included within genocide and mass violence scholarship. Furthermore, because the emergence of extreme violence in the Empire was a turbulent and chaotic process, as opposed to a pre-meditated master-plan for the annihilation of a race, as popular understandings of genocide would suggest it should be, area specialists have eschewed involvement with this conceptual field. I address this neglect in this thesis. Using a methodological approach derived from consideration of more recent scholarship which has explored genocide and mass violence in European empires, I aim to trace the genocidal characteristics of violence in the Japanese Empire. In particular, I analyse this violence as part of a dynamic process of radicalisation and escalation. I show that, while Imperial Japan does not neatly conform to models of genocide based on conceptualisations which place it as essentially synonymous with the Nazi’s ‘final solution’, the insights of genocide scholarship are useful to understanding how, in the absence of an overarching intention to destroy Asian peoples, genocidal violence became an option in the Japanese Empire.