Finding a Place: Rōnin in the Tokugawa Period
van Swet, Floris
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Citationvan Swet, Floris. 2019. Finding a Place: Rōnin in the Tokugawa Period. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractFinding a Place: Rōnin Identity in the Tokugawa Period focusses on the interaction between institutional and everyday understandings of status, and the subjective, mutable nature of social labels through the lens of rōnin (‘masterless samurai’). Through tracing the history of the term rōnin, the multiple ways in which it was used and interpreted over time, and its locally contingent nature, this research elucidates the inconsistencies between center/periphery, ideational/reality and explicit/implicit rules during the Tokugawa period (1603-1868). What the particular case of rōnin demonstrates is that such irregularities were an active part of Tokugawa rule within which status and identity were created, recreated and negotiated continuously at all levels of society. Though such institutional ‘messiness’ is generally viewed as inefficient, wasteful, confusing or even subversive in modern terms, as an accepted part of Tokugawa institutions it did not create instability or detract from the effective running and governability of society. Instead, it formed an integral part of the relative stability of the Tokugawa state for more than 250 years. Consequently, although clear differences existed between the institutional definition of rōnin and the social realities these people encountered, both held social meaning and were continuously negotiated. Though this process took different forms depending on place and time, it was universal throughout Japan and an accepted part of social life. Rōnin, apart from the unacceptable minority, were an accepted and integral part of the Tokugawa social world.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029594
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