Japan 's New International History

753 WordsFeb 22, 20164 Pages
Louise Young in her introduction to the AHR forum, “Japan’s New International History,” identifies two waves of scholarship on Japanese imperial history, from the 1960s emphasis on the state’s role to the emergent socio-cultural turn in the recent two decades. The extension of the new paradigm also blurs the national and cultural boundaries in mapping out Japan’s modern history in a global frame. Susan Burns’ article, “Constructing the National Body: Public Health and the Nation in Nineteenth-Century Japan,” which looks at the tension between the state and the popular over the regulation of the body in the early Meiji period, can be considered the new scholarship that concerns less about the institutional explanation but more about…show more content…
To further examine the local response to the state and the coherence between their visions of rendering individual bodies as public and national, Burns turns to two diseases which she thinks embedded popular discourses that intersected with not only nationalist one but also sexual and gender roles. This is where another strength lies. She is able to substantiate her arguments with abundant cultural sources like newspapers, memoirs, medicine journals, and fiction, and able to . By relating some historical events to the struggle of the position of the body, such as the Soma Incident, Burns indeed presents a diverse picture of the popular contestation in response to the state. However, there are problems as well. First, the title seems somewhat off the point in the sense that instead of discussing the process of “constructing” individual bodies as national ones, the paper mainly talks about the “contestation” on the people’s side of such a construction. Yet there is no trace of the local, the popular, in the title. Although this is understandable since it is a chapter in a book about the relation between the elites and national identity in Asia, it would be more straightforward to include the center of the debate concerned in her article. Moreover, the evidence for her argument for the local response remains on the discourse level in contrast to concrete

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