Much international research has been published on concepts of nation and nationalism in general as well as in the histories of particular countries like Japan. In most research "nation" is seen as a product of purely male politics and imagination. Feminist scholarship of the past decade has, with its perspective on gender, revealed basic social, ideological and structural preconditions of nation building processes. This international symposium intends to bring together scholars working in the fields of history, the social sciences and gender studies both from Japan and abroad to create a forum where we can re-think and discuss the fundamental theoretical and historical questions of gender and nation in Japan.
Historical concepts of nation and nationalism are wrought with references to gender relations in their symbols, metaphors and arguments. Moreover, the redefinition of masculinity and femininity in terms of a binary opposition and processes of nation building are political phenomena that developed simultaneously and, in their contemporary theorizations, corresponded in fundamental ways. The formation of radically different gender identities and the penetration of a national consciousness are closely connected consequences of a fundamental social change from a stratified, hereditary class society to a functionally differentiated social body. With the elimination of the "natural" feudal order, gender and nation became central and closely intertwined sources of "natural" identity. This conference will review the applicability of such a view of the modernization process and specify it with regard to the Japanese case.
Feminist historiography and theory are no longer limited to issues of women's exclusion from conceptual and factual domains of power, agency, and decision-making. During the past years, the focus has shifted to recognize women’s ambivalent integration into social, political and cultural systems. Gendered ways of integrating women and men into the process of nation-building differ over time and from nation to nation. Nevertheless, the common basis for this integration was the mobilization of the minds and sentiments of the people in order to realize the national project. Women and men in Japan from the Meiji through Shōwa periods were told that the fate of the nation depended on their fulfillment of the gender role assigned to them. The predominant female gender ideal was that of the "Good Wife, Wise Mother", which was imagined as traditional, uniquely Japanese and natural at the same time. We would like to trace the idea of women's and – correspondingly – men's gendered contribution to the nation and the state in contemporary concepts of citizenship, organizations, ethnicity, sexuality, work and everyday life. Also, taking into consideration capitalist developments and colonialist expansion, feminist analyses have pointed to the global dimensions of national gender systems and their intrinsic connection with the expansive nation-state. Such analyses underline the need for gender-sensitive conceptualizations of transnational historiography.
In order to understand how gender came to form such a basic category of differentiation, how various gendered modes of people's integration into (and exclusion from) the national project developed, how individuals reacted to concepts of differentiation and integration offered to them and how they actively participated in shaping these projects of identification, it is helpful to re-think the concept of nation, to recognize the historical distinction between nation and state, and to examine the gendered dimension of this distinction itself. Moreover, it is necessary to investigate how competing nationalisms have employed different concepts of masculinities and femininities until today.