Reopening Graves to Find Civilization: Osteology and Cultural Enlightenment in Meiji Japan -- Keynote Speech for the Reopening 'the Opening of Japan' Conference

Colonial activity in the Pacific during the mid-nineteenth century involved trade, strategic maneuvering, geopolitical machinations, religious proselytization, cultural exchange and scientific exploration. The northern territories of the Japanese archipelago, which is now called Hokkaido, was a dynamic contact zone for these and related activities carried out by many expanding maritime powers. By examining a case of grave robbery, this paper explores the delicate edges of the vast systems of political, scientific, and strategic interests as they interacted on the shores of Volcano Bay and in the court rooms of Hakodate. This paper thus reveals something of the ideals of Civilization and Enlightenment as they were invented and practiced
at the outset of the Meiji era.
This talk is part of the “Reopening the ‘Opening of Japan’” Two-day international graduate conference to mark the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Ishin at the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies, University of Oxford. For our full list of speakers, please see