Diamonds at the margin of empires: ‘baseball complex’ in the Japanese American internment and colonized Taiwan

Hsiu chuan Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article studies baseball played at ‘the margin of empires.’ It attends to the manifestations of ‘baseball complex’–the persistent sociopsychological affective force for baseball that derives from personal experiences/memories and political/historical institutions–in two geohistorical contexts: Japanese American internment in the US during World War II and Taiwan around the 1930s under Japanese rule. Besides historical references, newspaper reports and critical scholarship, two films are taken as core texts of analysis: Desmond Nakano’s American Pastime (2007), which enacts a story of baseball in the Topaz Relocation Center in Utah, USA during the second World War, and Umin Boya’s Kano (2014), which tells the story of Kano baseball team emerging from Taiwan under Japanese colonization. My reading draws attention to the stratified power structure that characterizes the margin of empires and suggests to move beyond the binary comprehension of baseball as either a tool of acculturation and colonization (for the imperial and dominant) or a medium of social ascendancy and cultural assimilation (for the colonized and minoritized). I argue that baseball not only could be utilized by those holding power or those obviously minoritized/colonized, but could be needed urgently by those caught in-between the powerful and the disempowered, such as the marginalized whites assigned to guard over Japanese Americans on sites of the internment or the Japanese relegated to Japan’s colony in Taiwan. Moreover, by foregrounding baseball’s trans-Pacific trajectory and exploring baseball’s entanglement with the triangulated power processes between the US, Japan, and Taiwan, I challenge the static meaning of baseball while testing out cinema’s value in simulating historical situations and changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-474
Number of pages24
JournalCultural Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • American Pastime
  • American and Japanese imperialism
  • Baseball complex
  • Japanese American internment
  • Kano
  • Taiwan under Japanese rule

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences


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