Japan’s Outcaste Abolition

The Struggle for National Inclusion and the Making of the Modern State

By Noah Y. McCormack

© 2012 – Routledge

200 pages

Purchasing Options:
Hardback: 9780415501323
pub: 2012-07-19
US Dollars$145.00

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About the Book

The Tokugawa Shogunate, which governed Japan for two and a half centuries until the mid-1860s, classed people into hierarchically ranked status groups (mibun). The early Tokugawa rulers legally established these status groups through the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries, adapting and clarifying existing customary divisions between warriors, peasants, artisans, and merchants. Subsequently, during the two and a half centuries of Tokugawa rule, status laws backed by coercive force worked to limit social mobility between groups and regulate relations between people of different status.

This book begins by examining the origins and evolution of the outcaste groups within the Tokugawa status order. It then looks into the complex processes leading up to the abolition of outcaste status and the institution of legal equality in 1871 under the Meiji regime, and analyzes subsequent practices and theories of social discrimination against firstly ‘former outcastes’ and ‘New Commoners’ and then ‘Burakumin’. Finally, it analyses the tactics and strategies of liberation adopted at local and national levels by anti-discrimination movements in Meiji Japan.

Detailing the history of early-modern Japanese outcastes into the post-abolition era, Japan’s Outcaste Abolition explores the dynamics of national inclusion, social exclusion, and the making of disciplined modern subjects. It will therefore be of great interest to students and scholars of Japanese history, culture and society, social history and Asian studies.


"the work provides a compelling examination of the role of domestic and international politics in changing Japan’s status hierarchy, particularly for those on the margins of society. It would be a valuable resource not just for historical studies of marginality, but for anyone, from advanced undergraduates on, in understanding how policies that are derived from creating modern nation state (such as ideologies of commonality and equality) are intertwined with changing beliefs and practices." Christopher Bondy, International Christian University, Social Science Japan Journal

Table of Contents

1. Outcaste Status after Equality 2. A Status Society 3. Outcaste Status 4. Rationality, Enlightenment and Outcaste Abolition 5. Defiled Bloodlines 6. Foreign Origins as Stigma 7. The Stigma of Place 8. Assimilation as Liberation 9. Conclusion

About the Author

Noah Y. McCormack is an Associate Professor in the Department of International Relations, Kyoto Sangyo University, Japan.

About the Series

Asia's Transformations

The books in this series explore the political, social, economic and cultural consequences of Asia's twenty-first century transformations. The series emphasizes the tumultuous interplay of local, national, regional and global forces as Asia bids to become the hub of the world economy. While focusing on the contemporary, it also looks back to analyze the antecedents of Asia's contested rise. Asia's Transformations aims to address the needs of students and teachers.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Asia / Japan
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / General