Thursday, September 21, 2023

"Wombs of Empire"

Coming October 10 from Stanford University Press: Wombs of Empire: Population Discourses and Biopolitics in Modern Japan by Sujin Lee.

About the book, from the publisher:

Japan's contemporary struggle with low fertility rates is a well-known issue, as are the country's efforts to bolster their population in order to address attendant socioeconomic challenges. However, though this anxiety about and discourse around population is thought of as relatively recent phenomenon, government and medical intervention in reproduction and fertility are hardly new in Japan. The "population problem (jinko mondai)" became a buzzword in the country over a century ago, in the 1910s, with a growing call among Japanese social scientists and social reformers to solve what were seen as existential demographic issues.

In this book, Sujin Lee traces the trajectory of population discourses in interwar and wartime Japan, and positions them as critical sites where competing visions of modernity came into tension. Lee destabilizes the essentialized notions of motherhood and population by dissecting gender norms, modern knowledge, and government practices, each of which played a crucial role in valorizing, regulating, and mobilizing women's maternal bodies and responsibilities in the name of population governance. Bringing a feminist perspective and Foucauldian theory to bear on the history of Japan's wartime scientific fascism, Lee shows how anxieties over demographics have undergirded justifications for ethnonationalism and racism, colonialism and imperialism, and gender segregation for much of Japan's modern history.
--Marshal Zeringue