About this site

Welcome to Portal for Decolonization

About this website

This website aims to provide a portal for understanding sites of decolonization around the world.

Content was posted during 2021-22 about the following three field sites:

  1. Ayacucho, Peru: Memories of Family Members Lost to Armed Conflict
  2. Yukon, Canada: Cooperation among University and Indigenous Peoples
  3. Sapporo, Japan: A Landscape with Ainu Kotans and the Repatriation of Ancestral Remains

The Issue of Decolonization

From Columbus’ landing on the “new continent” in 1492, the vast lands now known as, “America,” came under the rule of Spain, Portugal and other European countries. This was the beginning of the colonial age. The indigenous peoples who lived there became known as “Indians,” or, “Indios,” and suffered exploitation, discrimination, and repression.

Following the industrial revolution of the 1700s, industrialized nations set out to acquire colonies which could provide both the raw materials for making new commodities as well as new markets in which to sell them. This “second wave” of colonialism, also known as, “imperialism,” was pioneered by Great Britain, France, and Holland, but soon other countries, such as, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Russia, and even the newly independent United States of America and post-Meiji revolution Japan soon began to compete for supremacy. As a result, much of the world became colonized, and this fierce imperial competition set the stage for the two world wars of the early twentieth century. The repression of indigenous peoples must not be forgotten in the shadow cast by these conflicts between nation states.

Today, most of the former colonies of Asia, Africa, and Latin America are independent countries, and colonialism is often considered a thing of the past. Yet, within the former colonies that have been incorporated into these nations, structural discrimination against indigenous peoples remains a serious problem. If we consider colonialism as one and the same with the processes of the industrial revolution which saw humankind separate itself from nature in the pursuit of economic growth, we can see that the results of colonialism pervade every part of our lives and are being brought home to roost in the shape of environmental destruction and climate crises. This is where we must rethink the idea of “civilization.”

“Decolonization” is the effort to rethink and overcome the problems of colonialism and it is carried out in many different places, all over the world. On this website, we aim to show some of those places, find out what is being done there, discover ideas which may be useful for those in other parts of the world, and open up a forum for dialogue and learning.

The original meaning of “portal,” is, “entrance,” but this is not just an entry into the harsh realities of places near and far. Rather, we hope that you may step through it with the courage to graciously encounter the vast “landscapes of life” that spread forth from there.

Concepts of this website

Stemming from the issues outlined above, this website is based on the following three concepts:

  • The content of this site was born from connections and, in turn, will give birth to more connections. The website itself is raised by these two actions.
  • Connections with far off places. This is more than just an encounter faraway “otherness,” it is a chance to take a step back and discover connections with ourselves.
  • The things you see on this website may have been compiled by the Hiroshi Oda, the administrator, but they have been produced in conversation with the people of the three field sites and others with connections to them.
  • The information here is not just academic data for the use of scholars and experts, it is intended for use by ordinary people, students, or those who might be living in former colonies and affected by these issues. It is particularly important to remember that the people of former colonies are not “objects of study,” but are our co-actors, facing the problems of decolonization from a different viewpoint from our own, and from whom we can receive invaluable knowledge and advice.
  • We do not wish to merely display abstract data, or just collect information and materials. We want to get to know the concrete reality of those who live in these places, and communicate their specific actions, voices, and ways of life.
  • Colonialism was a way of placing “Others” into abstracted categories and objectifying them in order to facilitate their subordination. Does not an “objective” academic study risk doing the same? Here we aim to meet the “Other” as a real person with a face and a name.
  • Moreover, we aim not only to meet these people, but also to get to know the other people, creatures, and environments that make up the places in which they live.

The copyrights to all content on this website belong to the creators or are used by the creators with permission from the copyright holders.

Therefore, secondary use, such as reproduction, reprinting, or conversion, beyond the scope of personal use as stipulated by copyright law, related laws, or treaties, without the permission of the Museum or the copyright holder, is strictly prohibited.

If you wish to reproduce, reprint, or divert the contents of this website, please contact us and let us know in advance.

We appreciate your understanding and cooperation.

About us

This site is produced and administered by Dr. Hiroshi Oda (Hokkaido University, School of Humanities and Social Sciences).

It is produced and maintained using funds from the following two research grants:

  • Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C): Repatriation in the Process of Decolonization and the Public Role of Anthropologists.
    Lead researcher: Hiroshi Oda.
    Research collaborator: Natsuko Kasai
  • Grant-in-Aid for Challenging Research (Pioneering): The Sharing and Transmitting of Trauma in Objects, Narratives, Artwork and Religion; Holocausts and A-bombs.
    Lead researcher: Masakazu Tanaka
    Co-researcher: Hiroshi Oda
    Research collaborator: Daisuke Isokawa