Problematizing issues of periodization and methodology for the study of the Kamakura (1185-1333) era in Japan, this panel will use an interdisciplinary approach to investigate the thirteenth century on its own terms, pointing to significant changes that occurred in Japanese political culture.
This panel seeks to interrogate thirteenth-century political culture in Japan through new lenses. First, the panel aims to set aside modern agendas for narrating the past, instead focusing on insights that come from recovering the voices of contemporaries. Such an approach calls for critiques of both periodization and methodology. In terms of periodization, we investigate issues that suggest the thirteenth century saw major shifts in political culture writ large. Whether pointing to specific events such as the pivotal Jōkyū war (1221), as do Michael McCarty and Daniel Schley, or tracing formative changes over the course of the thirteenth century, as do Jinno Kiyoshi and Erin Brightwell, all papers point to major realignments calling for the significance of the thirteenth century on its own terms. This panel thus raises problems for a periodization scheme—in both Japan and the west—that continues to prioritize only the rise and fall of succeeding warrior regimes at the top. In methodological terms, the papers question many of the disciplinary boundaries that have often divided medieval texts into mutually exclusive source bases. Instead of perpetuating distinctions between categories such as law, history, or literature, this panel attempts to showcase the benefits of working across disciplinary lines. Erin Brightwell takes texts that have often been alternately relegated into realms of the historical and literary and traces their evolution as a single genre of "Mirror." Jinno Kiyoshi demonstrates the importance of moving beyond the mere study of law codes to explore definitions of violence through a broader range of texts. Michael McCarty unites historiography and literary criticism to elucidate changes in historical memory fostered by the Jōkyū War. Finally, Daniel Schley investigates historiographical narratives and ideas of kingship to suggest new perspectives on political culture. Such boundary-breaking illuminates real changes in the arrangements of society and power, as well as the conceptual underpinnings of authority, religion and culture that mark the thirteenth century more broadly.