Prompt: Why is Tsurumi’s argument about the importance of Japanese women’s labor power to nation-building an important intervention to week 1’s theorizations of nationalism? On the flip side, what experiences might focus too much on this point occlude obstruct/stop?
During week 1, we examined nationalism through the work of Benedict Anderson Anderson’s Imagined Communities and Anne McClintock’s Family Feuds: Gender, Nationalism. As the title suggests, Anderson described a nation as an “imagined community” and claims that one’s connection to their community has the potential to drive them to be willing to die for their community, despite not knowing much of the community. McClintock’s take on nationalism is that governments create institutional differences between genders that leads to gender discrimination. Tsurumi’s argument in the paper “Whose History Is It Anyways” is that koojo, Japanese women that worked in textile factories, were essential to the successful industrialization of Japan. With the intention of reducing costs for cheap labor, a significant factor in the successful industrialization of Japan, they underpaid girls and women in a very deceiving way. They would have a fixed salary and deduct money off their salary if they did things incorrectly which was up to the judgment of the supervisors, and the supervisors were heavily incentivized to penalize the employees or else they would be punished by the owners of the factory. Despite being so essential to the success of Japan’s industrialization, koojos were regularly chastised for their occupation. However, men who were forced into military service due to the Conscription Law of 1873 were given praise. This is despite the efforts of factory managers and the government to make koojos seem like what they were doing was great for the country much like how soldiers feel. Further analysis of primary sources like koojos’ songs shows that most koojos were only working for the sake of their family. This is interesting as it relates to the ideas of nationalism discussed in week 1. The feeling of nationalism of koojos is not very evident according to the primary sources. I believe this is the case as nationalism when fueled by gender discrimination as McClintock described, is more felt by men. The feeling of superiority that comes from benefiting from a system that puts them up and women down contributes to feelings of nationalism in men. Despite the importance of koojos to Japan they are significantly discriminated against and treated poorly. Focusing on the importance of these women to Japan’s industrialization dismisses their mistreatment and feelings during the Meji time period. Therefore, by studying primary texts like songs and diaries by koojos, we can see how they felt during these times in order to give us a more complete understanding of history.