This panel discusses the notion of modernity in the late Meiji period through the lens of gender, family and the law. It particularly asks what dynamic relation between these drove the formation of the Meiji state, applying interdisciplinary analyses of legal and literary texts.
Academic discourses often rather intuitively reference the 'Modern' as the key concept for understanding social, political and cultural developments in Meiji Japan. This panel intends to displace the familiar concept and rethink it in a new theoretical framework, engaging with a critical reading of citizenship, family and gender/performance. Choosing the Meiji legal system as common object of inquiry, the papers will show how, within this system, family, gender and citizenship were strategically deployed and practiced to reinscribe the modern into the feudal, and vice versa, in order to arrive at a particular 'Japanese modernity'. The panel applies an interdisciplinary perspective that combines legal, political and literary approaches in order to explain more fully the complex relation of family, gender and the law in the formation of the Meiji state. The first paper opens up the discussion with a broader reflection on how Meiji conservatives redefined Japan's family system so as reintegrate Japan's particular customs into the universal standards of the emerging global order. It particularly focuses on the writings of Hozumi Yatsuka, one of the most influential lawyers of late Meiji Japan. The second paper discusses how male agency and networks severely circumscribed the role of Meiji women in the making of particular statutes and. It will demonstrate how modern patriarchy cloaked itself in the notion of the family, thus making it difficult to recognise the essential role that gender played in the formation of the new Japanese legal order. The last paper demonstrates how the understanding of gendered law informed the literary writings of Miyake Kaho and Higuchi Ichiyo. This becomes particularly apparent in the double-bind that Meiji society placed the new emerging class of jogakusei (school girls) in, torn between the ideals of the new education system and the legal trappings of a rigid adoption system.