Sabine Frühstück, "Gender and Sexuality in Modern Japan" (Cambridge UP, 2022)

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Gender and Sexuality in Modern Japan (Cambridge University Press 2022) is a new addition to a list of publications by Sabine Fruhstuck, one of the leading scholars in the world on the topic. Written for both academics and the general public alike, this book introduces and discusses debates about sex, gender, and sexuality in modern and contemporary Japan, spanning from the 1860s to the 2020s. In Fruhstuck’s own words, this book aims to “balance descriptions of individual experience; institutional mechanisms based in law, pedagogy, and statecraft; and the socioculturally inflected politics within which those mechanisms have been embedded and which they have in turn shaped over an extended period that began with the nation- and empire-building of the late nineteenth century.”

The book is divided into seven chapters, each tracing the movements of individuals, ideas, and things between and beyond the nation, empire, and cyberspace. At the end of each chapter, readers can find a handful of recommendations for pairing the text with literary works, documentaries, and other films.

As Fruhstuck explains, the chapters share three analytical sensibilities. First, deriving from research in several nations’ archives and bodies of knowledge in Japanese, German, and English, the book is a transnational historical study in which “’Japan’ is configured as a malleable entity, as both a subject and object of global modernity, and a mediator between a global and a regional East Asian modernity.” Second, this book draws from History, Anthropology, Sociology, and Visual Studies, via a wide variety of sources ranging from print media and government documents to biographical accounts, from political pamphlets to pulp comics and contemporary art. Third, this book adopts a sensibility of “flexible intersectionality,” which aims to “invite readers to think at the varying levels of structures, dynamics, and subjectivities.”

Sabine Frühstück is Professor and the Koichi Takashima Chair in Japanese Cultural Studies in the Department of East Asian Languages & Cultural Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Daigengna Duoer is a Ph.D. candidate in the Religious Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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