ahorbinski: The five elements theory in the style of the periodic table of the elements.  (teach the controversy)
[personal profile] ahorbinski
Bibliographic Data: Frühstück, Sabine. Colonizing Sex: Sexology and Social Control in Modern Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

Main Argument: Frühstück is looking at the history of sexuality and sexual knowledge in modern Japan, the revolutions in which she sees as part of a process of colonization. She looks partly at "the obsession with the 'truth about sex' and the use of the phrase as a discursive tool" in contrast to other studies on similar topics, and argues that "as much as negotiations over a modern understanding of sexuality in Japan intersected with concepts of nation and empire building and overlapped with debates about the nature of Japanese culture and the project of modernity, they also functioned to increase the premium placed on scientific-mindedness" (5). Ultimately, this process of colonization produced modern subjects whose sexualities were regulated and disciplined via state power and who thus were proper constituents of the body politic.

Historiographical Engagement: Garon, Molding Japanese Minds

Introduction: Argument, Sources, Examples Frühstück outlines the groups who participated in the modern and scientific-minded discourse of sex, and highlights one idea that they all shared, namely that they "could all successfully invoke science and the value of scientific mindedness" (6). The main targets of this discourse were soldiers, prostitutes, and children. One of the most important subject groups of this discourse was sexologists, a loose network of figures at the fringes of the academy who from the 1920s on sought to construct a discourse of sexuality that centered their expertise, and who faced state repression as threats to the social order even as their paradigms affected the targets of their research.

Chapter 1: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter looks at the establishment of what Frühstück calls a modern "health regime," which, according to her, "tied individual bodies to the social body" and usually integrated "visions of social reform" with "ideas of 'racial improvement' and education" after the 1870s (17-18). Meanwhile, as formulated by Gotô Shinpei in 1889, "the vision of regime adopted by the Meiji state reflected a national body that resembled a human organism and claimed an empire that was to be nourished, equipped, and nursed like one" (22). As others have written, the modern military was a key site for the instantiation of modern disciplinary practices, not least, Frühstück points out, through its status "one of the core organizations for the development of hygienic thought and practice" (26). Systematic conscript examinations enabled military doctors to identify high rates of disease among soldiers, which eventually brought about the establishment of restricted-use brothers that were controlled and administered by the military, even as the government attempted to stigmatize prostitutes as bearers of venereal disease to justify their segregation from the rest of society.
By the beginning of the twentieth century soldiers, prostitutes, and children were–to different degrees and in different ways–represented in and incorporated into a complex set of power relations. These power relations were created by the quest for knowledge and surveillance, as well as ultimately for control and the desire to refashion the physique and psyche of imperial subjects and–by extension–of the empire. … Administrative control was exercised and extended in order to "protect" and "defend" the soldiers from prostitutes, the children from themselves, and the empire from its pathological subjects. Sex became the locus of these struggles, which were increasingly modeled not only by military and civilian health administrators but also by experts from a number of fields, including medicine, pedagogy, and psychiatry, who were situated at Japan's leading situations of higher education. (54)
Chapter 2: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter looks at the debate over sex education beginning in the early C20 and particularly its instantiation in the pages of the Yomiuri Shinbun, which "helped generate a discursive configuration that came to inform talk and texts about sex throughout the first half of the twentieth century" (59). Furthermore, according to Frühstück, Almost all of the contributions were rooted in the conviction that the creation of and instruction on "correct" knowledge about sex was necessary in order to improve the Japanese national body. According to the participants in the debate, the idea of protecting or improving the national health or national hygiene legitimated a tight network of examination, control, and surveillance through schools, parents, and children themselves. "Correct" knowledge about sex was to be obtained through "scientific" methods. These methods included the solicitation of confessions from children, observation and interrogation by parents and teachers, diagnoses of school physicians, and empirical data on the sexual behavior of Japan's young. "Scientific" knowledge about sex had to be completely severed from religious customs and social traditions. (ibid) As allies in their discursive fight, the pro-sex education experts enlisted "Western scholars" and "the West," which figured for modernity and, when it was deployed, opened up ever-wider discursive realms to subjugate to the particular discursive field in play: "the debate demarcated the 'intellectual field,' which the sexual problem came to colonize for itself and which engendered a dense web of tensions over individual and state responsibilities, self-control and happiness, disease and the concern for the national body" (60).

Chapter 3: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter looks at the rise and fall of the sexologists in Japan, personified by Yamamoto Senji, who argued that the study of sexuality had thus far been collapsed into the study of sexual pathologies and that it was necessary to study the "normal sex lives" of healthy people (statistically defined, based on massive quantities of survey data) so that the masses could be taught how to live their sex lives correctly and so that sexologists could debunk various sexual stereotypes. Thus, the sexologists were actively concerned with promoting their work to the general public, and a variety of sexological journals were founded in the 1920s and 30s, with a wide variety of approaches, from academic to highly popular. According to Frühstück, the fact that sexologists also published in women's magazines, general magazines, and newspapers "contributed to intensifying sexual discourse and furthered the multiplication of sexological writings by offering sexologists the opportunity to voice their concerns, present their knowledge, and advertise their more specialized publications" (112).

Chapter 4: Argument, Sources, Examples This chapter looks at the birth control debate in the 1920s and 1930s, which drew in a highly heterogeneous set of actors in a diverse set of places and which occurred in the context of the discovery of a "population problem" in which the metropolitan islands were seen to be overpopulated or close to it. According to Frühstück,
For certain women's groups, the population problem provided a setting for the redefinition of women's roles, status, and rights in society. They realized the political capital of their wombs, the expansive part of their bodies that would--if fully functional--improve their status as imperial subjects and by the same token further the expansion of the empire. As I will discuss below, there was by no means unity among feminists, members of other women's groups, and social reformers on this point, but many came to believe that one could not he had without achieving the other. At a time when women were refused political rights, the idea of lending their bodies to larger political goals and thus aligning the uterus with the empire was too alluring. Some feminists believed in the virtue and power of women's sexual self-discipline and morals in order to both curb overpopulation and improve men's moral standards and, by implication, the moral state of society. Others declared that preventing or terminating a pregnancy was a woman's exclusive right and the decision to do so should rest with her alone. (119)
The movement failed, however; abortion remained illegal and birth control remained largely illegal (although condoms were sold as measures to prevent venereal disease even after 1937). In the meantime, the gendered, classed, and raced dynamics of the birth control movement had given rise to dreams of eugenics among some of its proponents.

Chapter 5: Argument, Sources, Examples
The increasing militarization of Japanese society during the 1930s and early 1940s, addressed by ideologues like Hashimoto Kingorô, brought new challenges to the sexological project. […] One of them was censorship and other means of suppression, which drove some sexologists into bankruptcy or underground and simply silenced others. The authorities responsible for the preservation of social order and morals became increasingly involved in the blatant suppression of activities that challenged this order, be it the labor movement or sexological utterances. […]

The emergence of "racial hygiene" challenged the fragile position of sexologists within the realm of science. The forceful emergence of eugenic and racial hygienist thought represented a competing program that, by co-opting the rhetorical figures of the sexological project, such as "the demands of the masses," marginalized a sexology that had positioned itself as a tool of liberation. Racial hygienists emerged as the new experts ready to provide the imperialist state with the instruments for manufacturing a flawless, superior race, ready and able to push the Japanese empire to new heights. Finally, a turn to pronatalist-imperialist propaganda in popular media robbed the sexologists of their hard-earned foothold in the public arena. (152-53)
Importantly, eugenics and sterilization laws remained on the books even after the end of the war, and these kinds of thinking remain powerful in Japan.

Epilogue: Argument, Sources, Examples Frühstück argues that the sexual science that arose in Japan at the beginning of the C20 was different because "it attempted to be far more precise and empirical than anything that had preceded it" and because "it was able to draw on new developments in science and medicine" as well as on "a new biology [that] had begun to turn away from a classificatory and descriptive natural history to embrace the comprehensive study of the living organism" (185). She argues that this system of sexual science and knowledge has remained relatively undisturbed in Japan since, and that this "colonial ruling apparatus of sex" continues to structure debates about new sexual problems in Japan, such as Viagra, HIV, the pill, sex education, and "compensated dating," among other things. Frühstück concludes, somewhat obviously, that "these public debates reproduce a normatively that centers on heterosexuality and, through it, a gendered order of sexual matters and society" (197).

Critical assessment: This book is fine, but I actually disagree with Tom Laqueur that it is a better book than Pflugfelder's. Frühstück is bad at organizing her chapters and she never actually says what she means by the "colonization of sex." Moreover, unlike Pflugfelder, Frühstück lacks a theory of discourse through which to interpret her conclusions; she has Bourdieu and Foucault, but they are apparently not enough for her to talk about how sex was being constructed explicitly (which is not quite the same complaint as the preceding sentence? or possibly it is). I feel like a European blundering through premodern Cairo--there's no system, no place from which to secure a vantage point and observe.

Further reading: Pflugfelder, Cartographies of Desire; Mitchell, Colonizing Egypt; Masters of Sex


ahorbinski: shelves stuffed with books (Default)
Andrea J. Horbinski

August 2017

   1 2345

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags