Empire of Dogs

Empire of Dogs : Canines, Japan, and the Making of the Modern Imperial World

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In 1924, Professor Ueno Eizaburo of Tokyo Imperial University adopted an Akita puppy he named Hachiko. Each evening Hachiko greeted Ueno on his return to Shibuya Station. In May 1925 Ueno died while giving a lecture. Every day for over nine years the Akita waited at Shibuya Station, eventually becoming nationally and even internationally famous for his purported loyalty. A year before his death in 1935, the city of Tokyo erected a statue of Hachiko outside the station. The story of Hachiko reveals much about the place of dogs in Japan's cultural imagination.

In the groundbreaking Empire of Dogs, Aaron Herald Skabelund examines the history and cultural significance of dogs in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Japan, beginning with the arrival of Western dog breeds and new modes of dog keeping, which spread throughout the world with Western imperialism. He highlights how dogs joined with humans to create the modern imperial world and how, in turn, imperialism shaped dogs' bodies and their relationship with humans through its impact on dog-breeding and dog-keeping practices that pervade much of the world today.

In a book that is both enlightening and entertaining, Skabelund focuses on actual and metaphorical dogs in a variety of contexts: the rhetorical pairing of the Western "colonial dog" with native canines; subsequent campaigns against indigenous canines in the imperial realm; the creation, maintenance, and in some cases restoration of Japanese dog breeds, including the Shiba Inu; the mobilization of military dogs, both real and fictional; and the emergence of Japan as a "pet superpower" in the second half of the twentieth century. Through this provocative account, Skabelund demonstrates how animals generally and canines specifically have contributed to the creation of our shared history, and how certain dogs have subtly influenced how that history is told. Generously illustrated with both color and black-and-white images, Empire of Dogs shows that human-canine relations often expose how people-especially those with power and wealth-use animals to define, regulate, and enforce political and social boundaries between themselves and other humans, especially in imperial contexts.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 155 x 235 x 17.78mm | 408.23g
  • Ithaca, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 1 Maps; 34 Halftones, black and white; 8 Plates, black and white
  • 1501735888
  • 9781501735882
  • 1,709,262

Table of contents

Introduction: Canine Imperialism
1. The Native Dog and the Colonial Dog
2. Civilizing Canines; or, Domesticating and Destroying Dogs
3. Fascism's Furry Friends: The "Loyal Dog" Hachiko and the Creation of the "Japanese" Dog
4. Dogs of War: Mobilizing All Creatures Great and Small
5. A Dog's World: The Commodification of Contemporary Dog KeepingNotes
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Review quote

"Dogs are not average animals. They are placed between human culture and animal culture; uniquely, the author claims. And so this book muses on the meaning of domestication and civilization too. Utterly idiosyncratic, there won't be another study like it. After Skabelund, the Japanese Akita joins the German Shepherd and the English Bulldog as nationalism takes canine form." * Times Literary Supplement * "There is much to be learned about a society from a dog's eye view.... Readers need not be dog lovers to appreciate this dogged and deft analysis of empire and its social and cultural repercussions, but those so inclined will find a rewarding trove of lore about dogs in Japan." * The Japan Times * "This book's delightful anecdotes, absorbing illustrations, and rich description remind us of the complex, non-human dimensions of our histories. There is much in this volume to charm even those not born in the Year of the Dog." * The American Historical Review * "Apart from the great variety of sources deployed in analysis, and the range of beautiful illustrations, one of the great strengths of Skabelund's study is that the Japanese dog story is placed throughout the book in comparative perspective. The book is not just about Japan, although Japan is central, but it is about the transformation of dogs as part of the new imperialism of the nineteenth century and as part of the rise of mass societies in the twentieth century.... Skabelund's ability to weave these stories effortlessly together, and thus to weave the story of Japan's imperialism into its global context, is one of the truly enjoyable aspects of the book." * Japanese Studies * "Aaron H. Skabelund's volume breaks fertile ground. Taking the dog as his muse, he documents key sociopolitical developments under which this most ubiquitous companion animal has at once bolstered, and suffered in the name of, human progress...we have Skabelund to thank for starting the conversation in a Japan-centered historiography that warrants future comparative study." * Society & Animals * "There are few oblique references and the author knits the themes of race, species, power, representation and the history of socio-cultural politics together in a clear, elucidating, and thoroughly thought provoking way... it must be said at the book also contains a wry wit that makes it all the more enjoyable and the reader all the more motivated to flip the pages. Given these qualities, readers with an interest in a uniquely contextualized history of modern Japan or in the history of Japan's domestic dog species will find it to be a valuable reference." * Social Science Japan Journal * "InEmpire of Dogs, an investigation of the history of dogs in imperial Japan, Aaron Skabelund sets out to 'highlight the concrete uses of dogs, to talk about actual dogs, and to show how their actions were related to their metaphorical deployment in discussions about nation, race, class, and gender in the imperial and postcolonial world' (p. 17).. Empire of Dogsis a well-researched and highly readable treatise on the particularities of dogs in Japan from the 1850s through the first half of the twentieth century." * Monumenta Nipponica * "In this illustrated, easy-to-read, and well-documented book, Skabelund shows how Japan's embrace of Western dog-keeping traditions and perceptions was emblematic of its rise as a modern imperial nation. In doing so, he contributes a noteworthy chapter to the multifaceted story of human/canine partnerships." * The Bark *
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About Aaron Herald Skabelund

Aaron Herald Skabelund is Associate Professor of History at Brigham Young University.
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Rating details

17 ratings
4 out of 5 stars
5 35% (6)
4 41% (7)
3 18% (3)
2 0% (0)
1 6% (1)
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