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The discourse of national greatness in Japan, 1890–1919

Wilson, S.ORCID: 0000-0002-8341-3120 (2005) The discourse of national greatness in Japan, 1890–1919. Japanese Studies, 25 (1). pp. 35-51.

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Between about 1890 and 1919, the dominant discourse in Japanese nationalism emphasised Japan's status as a great modern nation, in contrast to earlier concerns about weakness and vulnerability in the face of Western imperialism, and despite continuing insecurities of various kinds. This paper revisits the ‘discourse of national greatness’, focusing on its construction, limitations and consequences. Emphasis on Japanese greatness was evident in the press, in self-presentation at industrial expositions, and in substantial written works by Japanese intellectuals. Several factors explain the rapid spread of such a discourse, including the decline of class and regional identification, the considerable expansion of the press, and the stimulus of war. The consequences of the rise of the notion of Japanese greatness for the later development of Japanese nationalism were profound. They included the further subordination of regionalism, entrenchment of the gendered nature of Japanese nationalism, the further denigration of other Asian peoples and of Japan's own past, reinforcement of the yet fragile cult of the emperor, encouragement to conflate ‘nation’ and ‘state’, and a strong tendency to associate nationalism with military conquest.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: Routledge as part of the Taylor and Francis Group
Copyright: 2005 Japanese Studies Association of Australia
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