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Redacted: The Archives of Censorship in Transwar Japan

Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 376
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    Book Description:

    At the height of state censorship in Japan, more indexes of banned books circulated, more essays on censorship were published, more works of illicit erotic and proletarian fiction were produced, and more passages were Xed out than at any other moment before or since. As censors construct and maintain their own archives, their acts of suppression yield another archive, filled with documents on, against, and in favor of censorship. The extant archive of the Japanese imperial censor (1923-1945) and the archive of the Occupation censor (1945-1952) stand as tangible reminders of this contradictory function of censors. As censors removed specific genres, topics, and words from circulation, some Japanese writers converted their offensive rants to innocuous fluff after successive encounters with the authorities. But, another coterie of editors, bibliographers, and writers responded to censorship by pushing back, using their encounters with suppression as incitement to rail against the authorities and to appeal to the prurient interests of their readers. This study examines these contradictory relationships between preservation, production, and redaction to shed light on the dark valley attributed to wartime culture and to cast a shadow on the supposedly bright, open space of free postwar discourse. (Winner of the 2010-2011 First Book Award of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University” ).

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95340-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Note on Translations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction: Archiving Censors
    (pp. 1-20)

    Censorship destroys texts, removes them from sight, places them beyond reach. Even worse, it can render entire avenues of thought off limits. The realms of discourse entirely obliterated by censorship can never be known; our only access to the deep havoc inflicted by censors is what remains after they have done their work. But what exactly does censorship leave behind? Where do we find its remnants? How can we measure these traces? What might they reveal about the censor? Is searching for the material behind the Xs and asterisks of censorship a treasure hunt or a futile quest?

    Censorship is...


    • 1. The Censor’s Archives and Beyond
      (pp. 23-43)

      Engraved in charcoal gray concrete above the book pickup desk at the National Diet Library (NDL) in Tokyo, an epigraph beckons to all whose eyes might wander while waiting for the vacuum tubes and conveyor belts of the archive to bring forth desired books: 真理が我らを自由にする; a translation, though nowhere attributed, of John 8:32: “Truth shall make us free.” The implication is clear: the archive preserves not just books but also access to truth. The NDL advertises in this slogan the imported postwar liberal principles upon which it was founded.¹ This adopted Miltonic tradition reasons that, in the “free marketplace” of...

    • 2. Indices of Censorship
      (pp. 44-60)

      The years after the Great Kantō Earthquake brought a rise both in the absolute number of bans on print material and in a particular mode of documenting censorship: the list or catalog of censored books. These two trends were not simply coincidental. The lists of banned books were a part of both the publishing boom and the related censorship boom of the late Taishō and early Shōwa periods. Bibliographers archived censorship for contemporary readers, repeating the primary method of secretly circulating censor’s reports that listed the titles of books banned.¹ The character 秘 (secret or for internal use only) is...

    • 3. Essaying the Censors The Deaths of Humor and Writing
      (pp. 61-86)

      When is the censor no longer a laughing matter? Who imagines the death of the censor? Why write that censors kill texts? The rhetorical strategies of essays documenting the phenomenon of censorship reflect, recast, and occasionally resist the modes of suppression they target. Throughout the twentieth century in Japan, writers expressed contempt for their censors. Their scorn manifested itself in a variety of rhetorical registers and drew on a number of metaphors connected to identifiable, historically contingent modes of censorship. Most strikingly, a humorous tone prevalent in essays on censorship in the early part of the century fades in the...


    • 4. Seditious Obscenities
      (pp. 89-111)

      If censors wrote, what kind of fiction would they produce? In protest against the unfairness of censorship, writers have long entertained this thought experiment. Would the work of the censor be clean, innocuous, pure, and legally sanctioned, or maybe tantalizingly salacious, or perhaps boldly seditious?

      In February 1931, during the height of bans on literature in Japan, the former censor Tachibana Takahiro published a story in one of the genres that his office tended to suppress: crime fiction. The short story, appearing in the niche magazineCriminal Sciencesunder the title “The Ring in the Drawer,” is a tale of...

    • 5. Literary Casualties of War
      (pp. 112-140)

      There is no absolute boundary between wartime and peacetime, no special mode of wartime censorship that is not already, in some sense, preemptively deployed in the peacetime economy. However, war has the effect of making itself appear wholly unprecedented, bringing to the surface that which may have gone unnoticed or been long submerged. The states of emergency associated with war emphasize and make explicit already pervasive but implicit fears about controlling the hearts and minds of the people. This chapter turns our focus to a cultural phenomenon that exists outside of wartime but is all the more clear during war:...


    • 6. Epigraphs Histories of X
      (pp. 143-153)

      This eloquent epigraph, an epitaph for unknown thoughts eradicated from the battlefield of discourse, conveys a commonsense notion of censorship: censorship obliterates words. The unwritten words evoke, in a language clear enough, the results of the violence of censorship at its most extreme: the disappeared works of would-be writers who were censored, jailed, exiled, or killed in action.¹ These (non-)works are forever beyond the theater of discursive conflict, so forbidden that they are unwritable, unpublishable, uncollectable, and unarchivable. Unknowable yet imaginable. Here we have already begun to ponder the “absence” as the wake of censorship that banned literature allows us...

    • 7. Redactionary Literature The Function of Deletion Marks in the Magazine Kaizō
      (pp. 154-193)

      Censorship systems haunt literature long after the last moments of suppression. First published in the January 1935 issue of the journalKaizōas part of “Shiroi asa no kagami” (The mirror of a white morning), the above scene, which would later become a pivotal moment in Kawabata Yasunari’s classic novelYukiguni(Snow Country, 1948), signaled potentially offensive passages with marks of deletion in accordance with the publishing practice of its era. The subtle shifts between the scarred early version and the later, mass canonical rendition of this classic of modern Japanese literature cannot be said to significantly alter the plot...

    • 8. Beyond X From Myth to Ethics
      (pp. 194-216)

      The myth that imperial censorship in Japan was always marked and that deletions became unmarked or “silent” during the Occupation serves a range of contemporary ideological functions, all of which paint imperial and Occupation censorships with a broad brush. The resulting picture of two distinct discursive arenas bifurcated by the war’s end is too impressionistic, sacrificing clarity of detail to render overall moods. In this context, connecting the similarities between wartime and postwar censorship by elaborating a transwar phenomenology of redaction—describing the dynamic process of marking deletion as encountered by readers and audiences—goes a long way toward dismantling...

    • 9. Unnaming and the Language of Slaves
      (pp. 217-248)

      The political and ethical implications of redaction are complex. Redaction, as a function of signification, cannot be fully explained by or contained in modes of apprehension such as historicizations and typologies that reductively force events into categories and classifications that may not have held for specific historical readers. As a method of dissemination control that is relatively open to free interpretation, redaction may not fulfill the wildest dreams of authorities that ultimately seek to limit the possibilities of thought. Similarly, as a strategy of resistance that continually depends on the time and place of reception, redaction is hardly controllable or...

  10. CODA

    • 10. Redaction Countertime The Literary Casualties of Empire
      (pp. 251-266)

      This book has suggested that stories of preservation, production, and redaction under censorship drawn from a brief period of Japanese history are instructive for a broad range of issues outside of that moment and place, and that the Japanese case is illustrative of something that exceeds the particular yet will never approach the universal. Typically, when made within a humanities discipline such as history or literary studies, the premise that the history of a seemingly faraway culture is still relevant in other places today is so obvious that it goes without stating; today, however, there is a necessity to reiterate...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 267-308)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 309-344)
  13. Index
    (pp. 345-356)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 357-358)