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Reo Matsuzaki (Trinity College) and Fabian Drixler (Yale University), “The Politics of Omote and Naishō: Performative Compliance and Spaces of Impunity in Meiji Japan”

October 6, 2022 @ 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm EDT

U.S. ET: Oct 6 (Thu), 8 – 9 PM

JST: Oct 7 (Fri), 9 – 10 AM

NOTE: Registration required! Link.

Paper is available here.

Authors: Reo Matsuzaki (Trinity College) and Fabian Drixler (Yale University)

Abstract: Around 1900, at least 97 percent of homicide victims in Japan were newborn children. Official statistics obscured this fact by reporting only a handful of infanticides each year, but they also preserved it in the guise of impossibly frequent stillbirths. We argue that this striking failure of law enforcement did not reflect insufficient state capacity, but that this interaction is best understood as a performance of law-abidance, jointly delivered by subjects and officials to reconcile two conflicting values—the omote (façade) of the state’s legal protection of newborns and the naishō (tacit arrangement) of household autonomy over family planning and reproduction. Political performances are often seen as acts of domination, subversion, or resistance enacted within a conflictual arena pitting state against society. We observe instead a more collaborative dynamic that allows states to extend their reach into society while also respecting the autonomy of the population through compromise and indeterminacy.

Presenter: Reo Matsuzaki (Trinity College)

Discussants: Iza Yue Ding (University of Pittsburgh), Dan Mattingly (Yale University)

Chair: Charles Crabtree (Dartmouth College)


October 6, 2022
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm EDT