Before the Nation: Kokugaku and the Imagining of Community by Susan L. Burns

By Susan L. Burns

Exploring the emergence and evolution of theories of nationhood that remain evoked in present-day Japan, Susan L. Burns presents an in depth exam ofthe late-eighteenth-century highbrow circulation kokugaku, this means that "the examine of our country.”

Departing from past reports of kokugaku that concerned with intellectuals whose paintings has been valorized through glossy students, Burns seeks to get better the a number of methods "Japan" as social and cultural identification started to be imagined ahead of modernity.Central to Burns's research is Motoori Norinaga’s Kojikiden, arguably an important highbrow paintings of Japan's early glossy interval. Burns situates the Kojikiden as one in a chain of makes an attempt to investigate and interpret the mythohistories relationship from the early 8th century, the Kojiki and Nihon shoki. Norinaga observed those texts as keys to an unique, genuine, and idyllic Japan that existed ahead of being tainted through "flawed" international affects, significantly Confucianism and Buddhism.

Hailed within the 19th century because the begetter of a brand new nationwide realization, Norinaga's Kojikiden used to be later condemned by way of a few as a resource of Japan's twentieth-century descent into militarism, conflict, and defeat. Burns appears to be like extensive at 3 kokugaku writers—Ueda Akinari, Fujitani Mitsue, and Tachibana Moribe—who contested Norinaga's interpretations and produced competing readings of the mythohistories that provided new theories of neighborhood because the foundation for jap social and cultural id.

Though relegated to the footnotes through a later iteration of students, those writers have been rather influential of their day, and by way of getting better their arguments, Burns finds kokugaku as a fancy debate—involving historical past, language, and subjectivity—with repercussions extending good into the fashionable period.

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Additional info for Before the Nation: Kokugaku and the Imagining of Community in Early Modern Japan (Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society)

Example text

7 As these remarks suggest, Bunyō’s view of the world was ordered by the status divisions—samurai, peasant, artisan, and merchant—authorized by the Tokugawa political order and infused with the Confucian view that these social groups were functionally tied to each other. When farmers farmed, and samurai ruled, the result was an orderly and harmonious society. However, Bunyō argued that in his own day samurai and peasants had abandoned their proper roles, clear evidence of which was the immorality, conflict, and confusion he detected everywhere.

Even if the riot is such that there are thirty-five cultivators or townspeople for every samurai, it is not the case 30 Before the Nation that [the samurai] cannot handle this multitude. . 46 Carefully, then, in light of his audience, Norinaga asked whether ‘‘those above’’ have the right to seize rice from the hungry and subject them to violence when they protest. In the 1830s, in the midst of yet another famine, Tachibana Moribe expressed similar sentiments. Writing to his student Yoshida Akinushi in 1833, Moribe criticized the official handling of the shortage of rice that sparked the outbreaks of violence: ‘‘One would think that in a time such as this the officials would feel some sympathy.

Thus the innovative Confucian scholar Kaibara Ekiken (1603–1714) produced a work in wabun on the tenets of Confucianism (Yamato zokkun, ‘‘Precepts for Japanese Daily Life’’) that was prefaced with the explanation that it was intended for the common people. When Tokugawa scholars first took up the Man’yōshū, the Kojiki, and other ancient texts that dated from a time before the native phonetic scripts known as kana had developed, they entered a linguistic labyrinth that confounded the opposition between kanbun and wabun.

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