The Indigenous Ainu of Japan and the "Northern Territories" Dispute
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This thesis re-examines the territorial dispute between Japan and Russia, the so-called “Northern Territories” issue, through a reinterpretation of the role of the indigenous Ainu of Japan. An exploration of Ainu history and historiography reveals that the long-standing emphasis on Wajin-based legitimacy of rule and annexation of northern areas was replaced by historical amnesia concerning the role and status of the Ainu. Discussion focuses on an interpretation of Ainu understandings of local, regional/national and international historical events. This approach underscores the importance of de-nationalising History by integrating the important perspectives of Indigeneity. It asserts, further, that the understanding of these events and processes require a broader disciplinary prism than that provided by the study of history. The preponderance of nation-based studies, and not only in the field of History, has seriously inhibited the analysis of historical phenomena involving Indigenous peoples, in this case the Ainu. The study of the Northern Territories issue offers, then, both a new perspective on the history of this important dispute and an illustration of the importance of broadening traditional academic studies in disciplines such as History, Anthropology, Ecology, Political Science, International Relations and Law to incorporate Indigenous perspectives and experience.