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Geographies of Identity in Nineteenth-Century Japan

Geographies of Identity in Nineteenth-Century Japan

David L. Howell
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 271
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pp6vw
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  • Book Info
    Geographies of Identity in Nineteenth-Century Japan
    Book Description:

    In this pioneering study, David L. Howell looks beneath the surface structures of the Japanese state to reveal the mechanism by which markers of polity, status, and civilization came together over the divide of the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Howell illustrates how a short roster of malleable, explicitly superficial customs—hairstyle, clothing, and personal names— served to distinguish the "civilized" realm of the Japanese from the "barbarian" realm of the Ainu in the Tokugawa era. Within the core polity, moreover, these same customs distinguished members of different social status groups from one another, such as samurai warriors from commoners, and commoners from outcasts.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93087-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    The history of the world in the nineteenth century is an anthology of radical change. The period from the French Revolution to World War I saw the impact of republicanism and socialism, industrialization and proletarianization, imperialism and colonialism, and all the other hallmarks of modernity. Among the many stories of metamorphosis, perhaps none is as striking as Japan’s. At the beginning of the century the country was relatively isolated from the rest of the world, prosperous and stable to be sure, but governed by political, economic, and social institutions poorly suited to cope with the challenges presented by an increasingly...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Geography of Status
    (pp. 20-44)

    In 1603 the military government of the Tokugawa shoguns, backed by about 260 autonomous daimyo, completed the reunification of Japan after nearly a century and a half of civil war and imposed a federalist order on the country while cutting most ties with the outside world.¹ The Tokugawa hegemony thus established prevailed until 1868, when the nascent Meiji regime brought Japan into the modern world. Because political authority and legitimacy before 1868 were dispersed among the shogunate, the imperial court, and the daimyos’ autonomous domains, some scholars have questioned whether “state” (in the singular) is even an appropriate term to...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Status and the Politics of the Quotidian
    (pp. 45-78)

    If the status system was the defining feature of the early modern order, surely its collapse marked the onset of modernity. Central to this transformation was a reconfiguration of the relationship between economy and social order. During the Tokugawa period, economic relations were given social expression through the status system, then subsumed within it. For example, although a compelling economic imperative—hunger—drove the originalgōmuneinto the streets to sing and dance for a few coppers,¹ once thegōmunewere imbued with an identity as such and placed under the authority of outcastes, the strictly economic nature of their...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Violence and the Abolition of Outcaste Status
    (pp. 79-109)

    When the Meiji regime came to power in 1868 it immediately repudiated the fundamental logic that had informed the Tokugawa status order. Rather than a military regime organized in the first instance to support the mobilization of troops, the Meiji state presented itself as returning to the institutions and ideas of Japan’s distant past, when the emperor ruled the entire archipelago directly. It does not matter that regime’s logic did not accurately reflect actual conditions; the Tokugawa state was much more than a simple military machine, and the celebration of the past by the Meiji state was in fact a...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Ainu Identity and the Early Modern State
    (pp. 110-130)

    As a consequence of the formation of the early modern state in the seventeenth century, Japan established clear political boundaries for itself for the first time. One such boundary lay in the southern part of Hokkaido. Everything south of a sometimes shifting but nonetheless clear line was part of the Tokugawa state, while the territory to the north of it was seen as the Ezochi, a nominally autonomous appendage of the state whose Ainu inhabitants were bound by trade and ritual to the Matsumae domain, the Japanese political entity in southern Hokkaido.¹ The most important by-product of the drawing of...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Geography of Civilization
    (pp. 131-153)

    Japan’s early modern geography of civilization developed out of a Confucian world order of a civilized (ka) core surrounded by barbarian (i), or at best imperfectly civilized, peripheries.¹ It largely supplanted—and partially subsumed within itself—an earlier bifurcation of the world into “human” and “demon” realms, replacing it with a tripartite division in which previously demonized aliens on Japan’s peripheries were humanized as barbarians and the realm of demons was displaced farther afield.² Civilization had a geopolitical character insofar as Japan was by definition civilized in a way its peripheries could not be, but the logic sustaining this tautology...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Civilization and Enlightenment
    (pp. 154-171)

    The creation of a fully centralized regime in the Meiji era undermined the internal autonomies of early modern society, dumping the contents of the nested boxes of the status system into the single container of imperial subjecthood. At the same time, the embrace of Western-style modernity prompted a fundamental reinterpretation of the content of civilization, which led to the delineation of a new roster of normative customs. The independence and security of the nation were linked to economic and industrial development, prompting entrepreneurs to justify their activities in terms of selfless nationalism. Ideologues rushed to the support of each of...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Ainu Identity and the Meiji State
    (pp. 172-196)

    After assuming control of Hokkaido in 1868, the newly instituted Meiji regime embarked on an aggressive policy of colonization and development that sought both to exploit the natural resources of the island and to remove any lingering doubts about its sovereignty. At the same time, the state implemented a series of measures designed to “protect” Hokkaido’s native Ainu people. “Protection” (hogo) was a euphemism for government attempts to turn the Ainu into petty farmers. These policies culminated in 1899 in the enactment of the Hokkaido Former Aborigine Protection Act (Hokkaidō kyūdojin hogohō), which remained on the books in amended form...

  13. EPILOGUE: Modernity and Ethnicity
    (pp. 197-204)

    During the early modern period, status ordered social groups within the core polity, and the concept of civilization situated Japan in East Asia. In the modern period, the two combined to constitute the contours of Japanese national identity and, with it, Japanese ethnicity. Japanese national identity did not emerge in its contemporary form during the Tokugawa period, or even during the opening decade or two of the Meiji era, for it goes without saying that Japan’s intensive engagement with the rest of the world since the 1850s has had a profound effect on both the state’s attitude toward, and the...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 205-236)
  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 237-254)
  16. Index
    (pp. 255-261)