Wartime Experiences and Indigenous Identities in the Japanese Empire

  • Lin Poyer University of Wyoming
  • Futuru C. J. Tsai National Taitung University, Taiwan


Further research on the operations of empire and on Indigenous histories offers the opportunity to examine how Indigenous communities in the Japanese Empire experienced competing currents of loyalty and identity during the Pacific War. This article examines how three Indigenous populations—Ainu, Indigenous Taiwanese and Micronesian Islanders—survived the ideological and social pressures of an empire at war and, despite the intense assimilationist demands of Japan’s kōminka program and traumatic wartime experiences, retained cultural identities sufficiently robust to allow expression at the end of the century in the form of action to maintain community lives apart from, while engaged with, the nation-state.

Author Biographies

Lin Poyer, University of Wyoming
Lin Poyer, a professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Wyoming, USA, has conducted ethnographic and ethnohistorical research in several areas of Micronesia, and is the author of The Ngatik Massacre (1993) and co-author (with Suzanne Falgout and Laurence M. Carucci) of The Typhoon of War (2001) and Memories of War (2008), both dealing with Micronesian experiences of the Pacific War.
Futuru C. J. Tsai, National Taitung University, Taiwan

Futuru Tsai is an associate professor at National Taitung University in Taiwan. He received his PhD in Anthropology in 2010 from National Tsing Hua University and has conducted research on Indigenous Taiwanese arts, culture and history. He is the author of The Anthropologist Germinating from the Rock Piles (Shiduei zhong faya de renleixuei jia) (2009) and From Dulan to New Guinea (Cong Dulan Dao Xinjineiya) (2011). He is also an ethnographic filmmaker, whose work includes Amis Hip Hop (2005), From New Guinea to Taipei (2009), The New Flood (2010) and Wings for Takasago Giyutai (2017).