E. Taylor Atkins


On his book Primitive Selves: Koreana in the Japanese Colonial Gaze, 1910-1945

Cover Interview of November 23, 2010


My intention is to communicate information about the past in a manner that is intelligible, informative, and thought-provoking to non-historians.  If the reader also enjoys reading, then so much the better.

One of my fears all along with this project has been that it might offend Koreans.  I iterate throughout the book: I am not trying to minimize their national suffering, nor exonerate Japanese somehow by pointing out the affection and interest many of them had in Koreana.

But I am not inclined to endorse or promote Manichean views of life, either in the past or present.  I do believe there is good and evil, but I don’t think my primary responsibility as a historian is merely to revere the good and castigate the evil.

I think the message is conveyed more effectively when presented in a calmer, more nuanced way.  None of us is anything less than a complex whole, and we do well to acknowledge the comparable complexity of the people whose historical traces we pursue.

Finally, I have pledged to donate 100% of my royalties from Primitive Selves to Tahirih Justice Center, a charity that arranges pro bono legal, social, linguistic, and medical services for immigrant women and girls who are victims of gender-based violence, trafficking, and abuse.

© 2010 E. Taylor Atkins