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Book Review: Susan L. Burns Before the Nation: Kokugaku and the Imagining of Community in Early Modern Japan

Wilson, S.ORCID: 0000-0002-8341-3120 (2005) Book Review: Susan L. Burns Before the Nation: Kokugaku and the Imagining of Community in Early Modern Japan. Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific (11).

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Susan Burns' subject is late Tokugawa discourse about ancient Japan. Through her analysis of the intellectual movement of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that was known as 'kokugaku'—'the study of our country' or 'national learning'—she makes a fascinating contribution to debates about how and when ideas about Japan as a community or a 'nation' emerged, and how they developed. Kokugaku has long been considered a precursor of modern nationalism in that its practitioners developed ideas about the singularity of Japanese culture, amongst other things; it has been condemned by some as a pillar of ultranationalism in the period before the Second World War. Burns' most significant contribution is to reveal the complexity and plurality of Tokugawa interpretations of Japan's ancient past. In doing so she shows the connections between diverse Tokugawa studies of the past and the contemporary Tokugawa political and social order. In addition, however, she also demonstrates what happened to kokugaku in the Meiji period and beyond, thus contributing to an ongoing discussion about how the forms of nationalism of the late nineteenth century onwards should be linked with earlier manifestations of national consciousness...

Item Type: Non-refereed Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: Gender and Cultural Studies, School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and the Pacific, The Australian National University.
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