Family, women, and gender in medieval society

Authored by: Hitomi Tonomura

Routledge Handbook of Premodern Japanese History

Print publication date:  June  2017
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415707022
eBook ISBN: 9781315170473
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter examines family, women, and gender, three topics that developed along divergent, but increasingly overlapping, paths of historiographical inquiry. In Japanese-language scholarship, “family history” (kazokushi) emerged in the late nineteenth century and initially tended to ignore the significance of women’s roles within the family or within larger historiographical questions. 1 “Women’s history” (joseishi) attained a commanding stature in academia in the 1980s, and crosspollinated with “family history” to generate critical questions. A decade later, “gender history” (jendāshi) further expanded the scope of inquiry despite the conceptual challenge posed by the foreign term, “gender” (jendā), for which there is no Japanese-language equivalent. 2 The English-language scholarship on medieval women, family, and gender is far from copious, but hardly isolated. It arose in conversation with women’s and gender studies that swept through North American and European academia, and has promoted interdisciplinary and cross-cultural methods since the 1980s. 3

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