After Empire Comes Home: A Guest Talk by Mrs. Sumiyo Nishizaki

Date: 9 December 2015

In the last ERC Project guest talk of the Michaelmas Term, Mrs. Sumiyo Nishizaki presented her research on the post-repatriation lives of employees of the South Manchuria Railway (SMR). Mrs. Nishizaki, who is a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics, has conducted extensive archival and quantitative research in several Japanese prefectures, consulting a wide range of primary sources: government records, national surveys, and corporate documents. Using this body of literature, she presented her answers to the issue at the centre of her doctoral dissertation: the impact of the Japanese returnees on the post-imperial economic landscape in Japan.

In her presentation, Mrs. Nishizaki presented extensive quantitative material that shed light on the post-repatriation lives of over 10,000 SMR employees. She challenged the generally accepted view that the reintegration of Japanese repatriates from overseas territories into the post-imperial economy was shaped only by the skills they had. Instead, Mrs. Nishizaki argued that employment policies supported by the government, as well as opportunities in the traditional sectors such as farming and small businesses helped relieve the postwar lives of the thousands of skilled returnees who had set out to Manchurian plains to expand the Japanese empire. As is the tradition, the speaker’s hour-long talk was followed by over an hour of lively discussion, in which questions about the aftermath of the Japanese empire and the making of the contemporary Japanese were raised by the participants.