Quotidian Monarchy: The Portrait of the Emperor in Everyday Life in Japan, 1889-1948
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AbstractThis dissertation analyzes how the official portrait of the Japanese emperor, known as “the imperial portrait (goshin'ei),” shaped public education and local politics from the late nineteenth century until the postwar era. Produced by state photographers, the imperial portrait transformed political culture and social dynamics in modern Japan. Pupils bowed down in solemn silence before the image; teachers risked their lives running into burning schoolhouses during US air raids to rescue the portrait; the nation's leaders used the picture as a proxy for inter-ministerial contests. Like the US Pledge of Allegiance or the picture of Mao Zedong in Tiananmen Square, the imperial portrait was a crucial part of Japanese culture. As such, it has garnered scholarly attention. To date, most of this work has taken a top-down approach, focusing on efforts to construct a modern “imagined community” through this national icon. “Quotidian Monarchy” takes a different approach. Based on primary sources such as school journals, village assembly records, diaries as well as official directives and bureaucratic correspondence at national level, this dissertation argues that the imperial portrait served many masters—teachers, administrators, parents and students—and not all of them resided in the nation's central ministries. The portrait's power was thus a product of daily local engagement of these various actors.
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