Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: The 1871 Kaihorei: Discourse, Outcastes and the Politics of Making Modern Japan
Keywords: Japan, modernization, Meiji, political thought, outcastes, minority
Issue Date: 11-Aug-2011
Citation: NGUYEN HA NGUYEN (2011-08-11). The 1871 Kaihorei: Discourse, Outcastes and the Politics of Making Modern Japan. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: The birth of kaihorei, better known to Western readers as the emancipation edict issued by the Meiji government in 1871, is considered as one of the most complex events in Japanese history. It legally unshackled the early modern outcastes from their status and permitted them to participate in the making of modern Japan as new commoners (shinheimin). However, this edict has never been regarded as one of the significant changes in early Meiji history as scholars consider it to be an empty reform which did not prevent the continuation of discrimination against Burakumin in later periods. This study argues that semantically and historically, the term kaihorei is just a scholarly discourse that obscures the significance of the 1871 edict. The concept of emancipation cannot be applied to the outcastes who, though marginalized, still had certain privileges and power that were not held by subordinated groups such as prisoners, servants and prostitutes. Moreover, `emancipation? was unimaginable in early Meiji history, as intellectuals of the time interpreted the related concepts of `freedom? and `rights? in accordance to the demands of the new government. From the Meiji state?s perspectives, the edict was not meant to emancipate the outcastes but to address several practical concerns. Through the abolition of the outcastes order, it sought to demonstrate Japan as a modernized and civilized nation that followed the model of Western nations based on equality among citizens. The Meiji deliberatives were also planning to utilize the outcastes as important resources to increase national wealth. Most importantly, they wanted to remove the last status system remaining from the feudal authority in order to consolidate national power. By removing the feudal privileges which allowed status groups to maintain a degree of autonomy from the central government, and making all citizens equal subjects before the emperor, the Meiji government was able to represent itself as a centralized and stable body. From this standpoint, the Abolition Edict of the Outcaste Order is a more appropriate name for the edict than kaihorei. The edict did bring about certain happiness to the former outcastes although it also created miseries for them. The struggles that the former outcastes had experienced could be understood as a result of the Meiji government?s heavy-handed policies. This edict also appeared as a part of the custom correction process in early Meiji history. Consequently, the Abolition Edict should be examined in the wider context of the formation of the modern Japanese state rather than just as an event in the history of the outcastes.
Appears in Collections:Master's Theses (Open)

Show full item record
Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormatAccess SettingsVersion 
The 1871 Kaihorei_Part 1_Title Page.pdf47.34 kBAdobe PDF


The 1871 Kaihorei_Part 2_Acknowledgements, Table of Contents, Summary and List of Figures.pdf197.49 kBAdobe PDF


The 1871 Kaihorei_Part 3_Main Text and Bibliography.pdf792.99 kBAdobe PDF



Page view(s)

checked on Apr 8, 2019


checked on Apr 8, 2019

Google ScholarTM


Items in DSpace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.