The Jokoo and Japanese Nationalism

Benedict Anderson and Anne McClintock gave us two perspectives on the definitions of nationalism. Anderson’s paper focuses on the inventive and imaginative property of nationalism. According to Anderson, nationalism was born due to a social necessity. With the decline of various social and political ideologies (the divine right of kings, for example), the people needed something to tie them together. McClintock’s perspective heavily focuses on the social, and specifically gender, inequalities resultant of nationalism. McClintock’s theory of nationalism relies on the existence of power group that preys on the subservient group.

Both authors give us a broad idea of what nationalism is. But these definitions only give a vague idea of what nationalism is without a setting to apply them to. This is why Patricia Tsurumi’s paper, “Whose Story is it Anyways?”, on the working women’s (and specifically textile factory female workers) impact and importance to nation building is a great intervention to the early theories of nationalism we have read. Tsurumi’s paper provides a specific setting to which we can apply what we have learned from both Anderson and McClintock. Nationalism, according to both Anderson and McClintock, require tremendous sacrifices from the people that adhere to the ideology. Anderson argues that these sacrifices are a way to become immortalized, a way to avoid the inevitable. Using this thought process, the sacrifices of these working women becomes very intriguing. Did they work under such harsh conditions because they needed to for survival? Or did they truly believe that sacrificing their health to work for these textile companies allowed them to be something bigger. Tsurumi’s standpoint of studying the working class girls’ from their own viewpoint becomes extremely important to understanding the motivation for their sacrifices.

But focusing too much on just one aspect of women’s importance to nation building occludes other impacts they might have. By only looking at the working women’s impact to nation building, we may overlook the (just as important) impact that non-working women had on Japanese nationalism.

http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/1369/women-in-meiji-japan-exploring-the-underclass-of-japanese-industrialization