Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Colonial recipes: Food, modernity and Japanese rule in Korea

The major objective of the study is to ascertain how Japanese colonialism affected the manner in which food was produced, processed, prepared and consumed in the colony, and how new attitudes towards these practices were constructed.

Duration
2003  -   2007
Contact
Kasia Cwiertka
Funding
NWO NWO

This project explores the modernisation of colonial Korea (1910-1945), with particular attention to food; universally acknowledged as a privileged basis for the exploration of historical and cultural processes. The major objective of the study is to ascertain how Japanese colonialism affected the manner in which food was produced, processed, prepared and consumed in the colony, and how new attitudes towards these practices were constructed.

The study is positioned within a larger framework of research into the culture of Japanese imperialism. We aim to demonstrate that colonial modernity in Korea was not merely a result of political and other developments at a macro level, but was also shaped through the daily encounter of Korean and Japanese individuals and organisations, with different goals and agendas. Three leading research questions will reappear throughout the study:

  • What role was played by the Japanese and Korean bureaucrats, entrepreneurs, and professionals in the construction of modern Korea?
  • What motivated both sides to become engaged in modernisation projects?
  • How was this experience and expertise utilised in the postcolonial era?

The focus on food will enable me to answer these questions. The ubiquitous presence of food, and its manifold functions and meanings in life, make it a powerful research tool for the observation of the totality of the colonial scene, while studies to-date only concentrated on selected aspects. From production to consumption, food unveils the multiplicity of political, economic and social connections between the colonised and the colonisers in their everyday encounter.

Research will be conducted mainly on the basis of archival evidence in Korean and Japanese, such as records of agricultural reforms of the colonial government, archives of food-processing enterprises and cooking manuals. The results will make an important contribution to East Asian history and cultural studies, and bring a new dimension to the study of colonialism.

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