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Aimé Humbert – Wertvorstellungen eines Bourgeois und das Japan der Bakumatsu-Zeit


Rüegg, Jonas (2015). Aimé Humbert – Wertvorstellungen eines Bourgeois und das Japan der Bakumatsu-Zeit. Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques, 69(1):47-71.

Abstract

Although it had no military presence in East Asia, Switzerland was the first landlocked European country to conclude an unequal treaty with the bakufu government of Japan in 1864. Aimé Humbert, initiator and leader of the Swiss delegation, spent 10 months in Japan waiting for the conclusion of the treaty. He is recognized not only for the significance of his mission regarding the economic relations between Switzerland and Japan, but also for his unique documentation of bakumatsu Japan’s everyday culture in his travel account Le Japon Illustré, which was published in 1870. This paper depicts Humbert’s perception of Japanese society and politics and analyzes private correspondence between him and his wife. His observations will be contextualized with the orientalist discourse in Europe and Swiss domestic politics in the 19th century. I will argue that Humbert clearly projected his value concepts as a bourgeois, liberalist and Protestant into Japan. For example, there is a parallelism between Humbert’s criticism of the Buddhist clergy and the liberalist’s anti-Catholicism. Of course, Humbert’s view of bakumatsu Japan and his way of describing the Japanese was strongly influenced by Eurocentric conceptions of the world in the 19th century. His belief in Japan’s ambitions as an independent nation, once liberated from despotism, however, can be considered as Humbert’s peculiarity and as implicit in his strategic situation: even though he profited from the West’s gunboat diplomacy, he did not need to justify any colonial ambitions of his nation, but rather predicted a “democratization” of trade with East Asia.

Although it had no military presence in East Asia, Switzerland was the first landlocked European country to conclude an unequal treaty with the bakufu government of Japan in 1864. Aimé Humbert, initiator and leader of the Swiss delegation, spent 10 months in Japan waiting for the conclusion of the treaty. He is recognized not only for the significance of his mission regarding the economic relations between Switzerland and Japan, but also for his unique documentation of bakumatsu Japan’s everyday culture in his travel account Le Japon Illustré, which was published in 1870. This paper depicts Humbert’s perception of Japanese society and politics and analyzes private correspondence between him and his wife. His observations will be contextualized with the orientalist discourse in Europe and Swiss domestic politics in the 19th century. I will argue that Humbert clearly projected his value concepts as a bourgeois, liberalist and Protestant into Japan. For example, there is a parallelism between Humbert’s criticism of the Buddhist clergy and the liberalist’s anti-Catholicism. Of course, Humbert’s view of bakumatsu Japan and his way of describing the Japanese was strongly influenced by Eurocentric conceptions of the world in the 19th century. His belief in Japan’s ambitions as an independent nation, once liberated from despotism, however, can be considered as Humbert’s peculiarity and as implicit in his strategic situation: even though he profited from the West’s gunboat diplomacy, he did not need to justify any colonial ambitions of his nation, but rather predicted a “democratization” of trade with East Asia.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:Journals > Asiatische Studien / Études Asiatiques > Archive > 69 (2015) > 1
Dewey Decimal Classification:Unspecified
Language:German
Date:2015
Deposited On:19 Sep 2016 14:26
Last Modified:19 Sep 2016 14:26
Publisher:De Gruyter
ISSN:0004-4717
Official URL:http://www.degruyter.com/view/j/asia.2015.69.issue-1/asia-2015-0011/asia-2015-0011.xml
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-126123

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