Western science and Japanese identity from the Meiji restoration to the Pacific War
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This thesis is in response to scholarly works on Japanese society and the ideal of the monoethnic race in relation to minorities and immigrants living in contemporary Japan. Race is as much a biological concept as it is a social one, and much of our modern understanding of race was borne out of the scientific and philosophic thought of nineteenth-century Europe and North American. Therefore, I posit that the adoption of western science by Japan effectively translated the Japanese body into a biological construct and blurred the line between science and culture, developing into a racially-based national identity by the time of the Pacific War. The construction of the Japanese body in this manner occurred in three successive translations: (1)the body as an object to be improved upon in order to compete with the West; (2) the body as a racialized object, distinct from all others and (3)the body as an object to be safeguarded from degradation. The discourse among social actors, including scholars, the government, religious leaders, and others, followed along western models of biological determinism and ultimately led to Japan's own indigenous form of eugenics. The catalyst for this process was the "scientizing" of the body. Just as Douglas has theorized that what is acted upon the body reflects larger societal issues, when western science was placed into the framework of the Japanese body it can be discerned that the translation from a traditional form to a scientific one, resulting in a "scientized" body. However, the translation was not wholesale and indigenous concepts of the body, like the family state, merged with biodeterminist conceptions to create a mono-ethnic race in line with Neo-Shintoist ideology. Implications for postwar Japan fall outside the confines of this thesis, but threads from the prewar period do carry over into the present.