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Panel B: Women in Modern Japan

Location: Rm. 1009

Sarah Griffith, “We are Doing Good Work Among our Women: Japanese Women’s Social Reform in the Pacific, 1900-1930”

Associate Professor, Department of History, Queens University of Charlotte

Keywords: transpacific, gender, imperialism

Following the toppling of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1868 leaders of the Meiji Restoration undertook ambitious campaigns to rapidly industrialize, and Westernize, the newly formed nation-state. Japanese intellectuals saw gender relations and sexual morality as crucial measures of an “‘enlightened’” civilizations and urged Meiji officials to mandate compulsory public education that emphasized “moral and religious education” for women and girls. The change created inroads for Western missionary organizations like the Young Women’s Christian Association who established a National Committee in Tokyo in 1905. Over the next twenty years, the Japan YWCA became one of the most influential woman-led missionary organization in Japan and facilitated the migration of thousands of Japanese women to the West Coast of the United States.

This paper explores the social and organizational networks forged among Japanese and American YWCA secretaries over the first two decades of the twentieth century and the complex motivations that inspired Japanese immigrant women to advocate for Christian moral reform in West Coast immigrant communities. Although a minority in the majority Buddhist immigrant population, Japanese YWCA secretaries came to play influential roles in shaping the American public’s view of Japanese American life, Japanese womanhood, and conflicting US-Japan imperial projects across the early twentieth century.

Pamela Runestad, “A collaboration between mother and baby: Sophrology in a Japanese maternity clinic and the making of medical knowledge”

Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Elon University

Keywords: Japan, sophrology

The social lives of ideas are complex, and acknowledging intellectual contributions often varies according to discipline, field, genre, audience, and geographic location, as well as over time. In this chapter, I describe how the use of Sophrology in a birth clinic in Japan is described by three types of writers and the clinic itself with attention to these facets. I argue that Sophrology in this context is not different from the circulation of scholarly ideas and medical technologies in general, but writing about it provides a clear example of exotification in multiple publications. I demonstrate the need for a critical-reflexive bricolage, whereby readers and writers consider not just who needs to be cited for their audiences, but why and how, in order to avoid exoticism and appropriation.