The Two Pacific Wars: Visions of Order and Independence in Japan, Burma, and the Philippines, 1940-1945

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The Two Pacific Wars: Visions of Order and Independence in Japan, Burma, and the Philippines, 1940-1945

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Title: The Two Pacific Wars: Visions of Order and Independence in Japan, Burma, and the Philippines, 1940-1945
Author: Yellen, Jeremy Avrum
Citation: Yellen, Jeremy Avrum. 2012. The Two Pacific Wars: Visions of Order and Independence in Japan, Burma, and the Philippines, 1940-1945. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation examines the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, Japan’s ambitious attempt to create a new order in East Asia. Most studies on Japan’s new order focus on either the imperial center (Japan) or the periphery (individual East or Southeast Asian nations). This dissertation, however, brings together both. It discusses the Japanese effort to envision a postwar world, and at the same time shows how Japan’s new order was mobilized and co-opted by nationalist leaders in the Philippines and Burma. By focusing on dynamic imperial networks rather than simple models of unidirectional diffusion, this dissertation seeks to paint a more nuanced picture of World War II in the Asia-Pacific. Simple dichotomies fail to capture the complicated nature of the Co-Prosperity Sphere. The Co-Prosperity Sphere was neither a mere euphemism for Japanese imperialism and wartime actions, nor a sincere project aimed at the liberation of Asia. Instead, the Sphere is better understood as a process or contest of beliefs, one that could not be controlled by any single group or invading force. This process took shape as an effort to envision a postwar world while in the midst of war. Elites in Tokyo dreamed of a postwar Japan-led international order. Elites in Burma and the Philippines, on the other hand, remained focused on their domestic orders, and viewed independence as of paramount importance. This study highlights the evolution and contested nature of Japan’s new order, and shows how multiple parties—both in Japan and across Asia—impacted the shape the wartime empire would take. Moreover, my dissertation makes an important contribution to the history of empire and decolonization by unpacking the significance of the Japanese interregnum in Southeast Asia. It demonstrates that decolonization in Southeast Asia was more than an unintended consequence of World War II. Whether through extended participation in government, state building measures, or the creation of new governmental institutions, Southeast Asian leaders made conscious use of the Japanese empire to prepare for postwar independence.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10382785
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