Social Formation of Japanese Subjecthood Between 1868 and 1905

Tsurumoto, Kaori. 2001. Social Formation of Japanese Subjecthood Between 1868 and 1905. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

For over two centuries prior to 1868, the Tokugawa government consistently refused to have official relations with the outside world, and took a strict policy of isolationism. However, with the ever-increasing encroachment of western naval powers onto its shores, 'Japanese' authorities began to recognise the need to take a different attitude toward its relations with the outside world, especially with the 'West', and began the process of 'modernising' the 'nation'. This thesis will critically investigate what this process of 'modernisation' entailed, by focusing upon the social formation of Japanese subjecthood between 1868 and 1905.

Undertaking a semiotic analysis of advertisements and a genealogical analysis of ethical school textbooks, this thesis argues that the subjectification of Japanese national identity was specifically different from the western one. Through a semiotic analysis of advertisements, it suggests that the operative symbolic system which formed the Japanese subject was one premised upon hybridity rather than essentialism. Through a genealogical analysis of ethical school textbooks, it argues that the subject was constituted through governing the bodily performance of the subject, and one which naturalised the uniqueness of the Japanese race.

These analyses will indicate that the forms of subjectification which may be identified in the process of Japanese modernisation are cognisant of some of the radical models of the subject proposed by some post-1968 theories. These proposals were intended to beget or designate a model of the subject which can resist and overcome the legacy of violence inherent in western thought, particularly of the kind that legitimated its history of imperialism. However, I argue that since these alternatives bear semblance to those located in the historical formations that resulted in Japanese imperialism, a critique of thought alone cannot be the basis of social critique, but that thought must be continually apprehended as part of a system of practice in academic activities.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Japan, Japanese subjecthood, 1868 - 1905, modernisation, national identity, subjectification

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Date Deposited:

12 Jun 2020 11:37

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 15:43


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