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Crossing boundaries: Suzuki Bokushi (1770-1842) and the rural elite of Tokugawa Japan

Moriyama, Takeshi (2008) Crossing boundaries: Suzuki Bokushi (1770-1842) and the rural elite of Tokugawa Japan. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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      Abstract

      This thesis centres on a member of the rural elite, Suzuki Bokushi (1770-1842) of Echigo, and his social environment in Tokugawa Japan (1603-1868). Through a case study of the interaction between one individual’s life and his social conditions, the thesis participates in the ongoing scholarly reassessment of Tokugawa society, which had an apparently rigid political and social structure, yet many features that suggest a prototype of modernity. Bokushi’s life was multifaceted. He was a village administrator, landlord, pawnbroker, poet, painter, and great communicator, with a nation-wide correspondence network that crossed various social classes. His remote location and humble lifestyle notwithstanding, he was eventually able to publish a book about his region, Japan’s ‘snow country’. This thesis argues that Bokushi’s life epitomises both the potentiality and the restrictions of his historical moment for a well-placed member of the rural elite. An examination of Bokushi’s life and texts certainly challenges residual notions of the rigidity of social boundaries between the urban and the rural, between social statuses, and between cultural and intellectual communities. But Bokushi’s own actions and attitudes also show the force of conservative social values in provincial life. His activities were also still restrained by the external environment in terms of geographical remoteness, infrastructural limitation, political restrictions, cultural norms and the exigencies of human relationships. Bokushi’s life shows that in his day, Tokugawa social frameworks were being shaken and reshaped by people’s new attempts to cross conventional boundaries, within, however, a range of freedom that had both external and internal limits.

      Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
      Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences and Humanities
      Supervisor: Wilson, Sandra
      URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/746
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