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Bodies, Numbers, And Empires

Overview

This dissertation explores a spectrum of changing discourses on the prostitute during the transformational processes and events of the late Bakumatsu (1853-1868) and Meiji (1868-1912) periods. Through four case studies (constituting the four chapters of the dissertation), I trace and historicize the contested nature of gendered pleasure workers during a time of tremendous turmoil and change. My examination of "her" different meanings in the fields (or "sites") of art, public health, moral reform, and popular ...
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Overview

This dissertation explores a spectrum of changing discourses on the prostitute during the transformational processes and events of the late Bakumatsu (1853-1868) and Meiji (1868-1912) periods. Through four case studies (constituting the four chapters of the dissertation), I trace and historicize the contested nature of gendered pleasure workers during a time of tremendous turmoil and change. My examination of "her" different meanings in the fields (or "sites") of art, public health, moral reform, and popular literature emphasizes that the category of the prostitute was multi-layered, constantly shifting, and socially, politically, and culturally constructed. In addition, it demonstrates that, in the process of representing her, those who produced the prostitute simultaneously constructed new and changing meanings about themselves. In the first chapter (Site One), I analyze the motif of the pleasure quarters in Yokohama-e, Japanese woodblock prints that portrayed the "opening" of Japan. I argue that the prostitute was presented as a positive liminal body, representative of "the Other." As a metaphorical bridge between "East" and "West," the prostitute and her quarters became symbols of stability, order, and discipline amidst the uncertainty and chaos engendered by the arrival of foreigners. In Site Two, I turn to the public health sphere and examine the gathering and dissemination of statistics on diseased bodies. Such numbers constituted a "modern" public health policy that defined pleasure workers not only as diseased but as national contaminants requiring state-sponsored surveillance and control. In Site Three, I examine the depiction of pleasure workers by Japan's early Christian prostitution abolitionists. In their social and moral reform journals, the prostitute was represented as a "poisonous obstacle" to the achievement of national enlightenment and civilization (bunmei kaika ). She also threatened the respectability of the Japanese empire. In Site Four, I consider the unprecedented case of Wada Yoshiko, "the literary prostitute," whose autobiography generated enough proceeds to enable her to pay off her debts and leave the profession. Rather than creating new meanings for "the prostitute," Wada offers what amounts to a first-person iteration of previously seen representations of pleasure works from the sites of art, public health, and moral reform.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781243710840
  • Publisher: BiblioLabsII
  • Publication date: 9/8/2011
  • Pages: 350
  • Product dimensions: 7.44 (w) x 9.69 (h) x 0.73 (d)

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