The panel Women Networks in Nineteenth Century Japan runs over two sessions with each session having three presenters. Part 1: Women Working Within the Structures of the Family. Part 2: Women's Lives Outside the Structures of the Family.
Historical narratives of women's lives are treated separately for the pre-modern and modern periods. This panel interrogates and scrutinizes this artificial pre-modern/modern divide. It does so by broadening our perspective on issues of daily life using the case of social networks that developed and continued over time and space. The five panelists take up distinct networks that illuminate a variety of responses to political issues, social forces, and social developments during the nineteenth century. All the women examined here faced exigencies that arose in the course of their lives; some were affected by larger political events, some less so, and some had to deal with the aftermath of momentous changes that created an entirely new social and political landscape. Part 1 looks at women working within the structures of the family. Here, Luke Roberts's presentation invites us to partake in his close reading of a samurai family's network in the domain of Tosa. With the second paper Itasaka Noriko casts a new light on our perception of Michijo, who ran the household of the famous author Kyokutei Bakin in Yotsuya. In the third paper Nishizawa Naoko interrogates Fukuzawa Yukichi's vision of modern society and of the place of women therein, taking us from individual experiences of family life to early Meiji debates and conceptualizations of women's networks. The three papers therefore explore the positioning of women with the focus on the household. In contrast, Part 2 treats women and their experiences outside of the family framework. Yokoyama Yuriko starts off with presenting various networks that formed between organizations surrounding the pleasure quarters and unconnected individuals on the outside. Sugano Noriko will then introduce us to the experiences of young women being sent to work in modern factories. Through a close reading of diaries and letters she sheds light on the experiences of these young women and discusses the role of networks in their lives.