In 1860 seventy-seven samurais arrived in Washington, D.C. to ratify the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, which had been signed between Japan and the United States earlier in 1858. By examining delegates’ accounts of peoples they encountered during their trip along the east coast and in Luanda, Angola on a transatlantic voyage back home, this talk explores Japanese ideas about human difference and categorization manifested in the delegates’ use of Kokujin (black people) and Dojin (native people) in referring to African Americans in the United States and colonized local people in Portuguese Angola.
Dr. Ikuko Asaka is Assistant Professor of History at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a historian of the United States with an emphasis on the nineteenth century, empire, U.S. in the world, African American history, and women, gender and sexuality. Her research explores how race and its related processes—class, gender, and sexuality—organized and were organized by global structures and circumstances as well as by systems of exclusion and inclusion at national, colonial, and imperial levels.