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presentation 発表

The 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Marathon and the Racialization of Athleticism in Japan

Abstract
People in the US and Japan interpret the reason for black athletic excellence in drastically different ways: in the US people have been participated in intense controversies between hereditarians and environmentalists, while in Japan most people take side with hereditarians. To explain this gap of interpretive patterns between two nations, I would like to explore the ways in which the racialization of black athleticism has proceeded in both nations since the dawn of African American involvement in modern sporting events during the late nineteenth century.
Methodologically, my research should be located in the historiographical context of studies on the process of “racial formation” (to borrow Michael Omi/Howard Winant’s famous terminology). This study focuses on the racial formation in terms of athleticism that two nations have undergone through its respective modern nation-state building experiences: roughly since the post-Civil War era for the US and the Meiji Restoration for Japan.
One important starting point should be found in the year of 1923, when the Amsterdam Olympics took place. In this Olympics’ marathon race, for the first time in Olympic history, a non-white runner won the gold medal. As the distinguished American scholar in this field, Mark Dyreson, has proposes in a recent Journal of Sport History with an ambitious and pioneering cross-cultural comparative framework, this event is truly rich with opportunities to explore people’s thought and behavior toward the connection and association of race with athletic ability, and changes in their thought and behavior through a historical context.
The champion of the marathon in Amsterdam was Algerian French, Ahmed Boughera El Ouafi. Equally important, two Japanese, Kanematsu Yamada and Seiichiro Tsuda, also distinguished themselves by winning fourth and sixth places. The Amsterdam marathon produced a sort of vivid counter-evidence to Nordicism, in which European dominance and superiority over non-Europeans were presupposed and seen as a norm.
The result completely overturned the Nordic-centered expectation. Since the dawn of the Meiji era, which is 1868, until the time of the Amsterdam Olympiad, many Japanese had held an implicit racial hierarchical assumption of the “whites” (Europeans), the “yellows” (Asians), and the “blacks” (Africans) in this order. It was basically a three-layered structure. This was a result of Japan’s importation from the West what was then a dominant view primarily based on the categorization by German physiologist J. F. Blumenbach and others.
The Amsterdam Olympic’ marathon game demonstrated an order just contrary to the traditional one: namely, non-white African El Ouafi took the first place, and equally non-white Japanese took two top places, because of which the Japanese media vociferously argued that they should deserve a place even better than the silver medal.
By looking at the records left by the people who were involved and participated in this Olympic, we can see how they interpreted the running of El Ouafi, Yamada, and Tsuda, how they associated the marathon’s result with the paradigm of racially recognizing and evaluating human beings, and how it affected the processes of racial formation, and of the racialization of athletic ability.


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