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Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan

Botsman, Daniel V.

Published by Princeton University Press, U.S.A., 2005
ISBN 10: 0691114919 / ISBN 13: 9780691114910
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern...

Publisher: Princeton University Press, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 2005

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition: Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Good


slight foxing on dust jacket, tight binding, apparently unread, excellent copy. Bookseller Inventory # 2 ASN 001 m

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The kinds of punishment used in a society have long been considered an important criterion in judging whether a society is civilized or barbaric, advanced or backward, modern or premodern. Focusing on Japan, and the dramatic revolution in punishments that occurred after the Meiji Restoration, Daniel Botsman asks how such distinctions have affected our understanding of the past and contributed, in turn, to the proliferation of new kinds of barbarity in the modern world.

While there is no denying the ferocity of many of the penal practices in use during the Tokugawa period (1600-1868), this book begins by showing that these formed part of a sophisticated system of order that did have its limits. Botsman then demonstrates that although significant innovations occurred later in the period, they did not fit smoothly into the "modernization" process. Instead, he argues, the Western powers forced a break with the past by using the specter of Oriental barbarism to justify their own aggressive expansion into East Asia. The ensuing changes were not simply imposed from outside, however. The Meiji regime soon realized that the modern prison could serve not only as a symbol of Japan's international progress but also as a powerful domestic tool. The first English-language study of the history of punishment in Japan, the book concludes by examining how modern ideas about progress and civilization shaped penal practices in Japan's own colonial empire.

From the Back Cover:

"This book is an important, systematic account of punishment and prisons in Japan from the Tokugawa period through the nineteenth century. Botsman shows quite well the ways that punishment has transformed over almost three centuries, and connects this to political power. The richness of detail--images of beheadings with a saw, severed heads, crucified bodies, crowded jails, and Benthamlike prisons--will no doubt stay with readers."--Stefan Tanaka, University of California, San Diego, author of New Times in Modern Japan

"I enjoyed reading this book, and learned a lot from it. Botsman avoids both the trap of attributing the rise of a modern penal complex in Japan to some authoritarian essence from time immemorial and the folly of placing all the causative weight on Western imperialism and Western ideas of crime and punishment. Further, he offers an explanation for the methods of colonization that Japanese colonialism adopted when it expanded into Asia. His clearly written work adds the significant experience of Japan to the literature on the emergence of modern systems of punishment and contributes to the comparative understanding of non-Western modernities."--Gyan Prakash, Princeton University, author of Another Reason

"A scholarly tour de force. This book is a unique contribution to a field of historical study that has, in the past, been marked either by a concern for central political institutions or intellectual history. Until now, there has been no serious work on Tokugawa and Meiji penal practices. But Botsman, by weaving the discursive strands of thinking about punishment into the fabric of institutional practice, has managed to give us an exemplary cultural history that exceeds both its temporal and spatial location."--Harry Harootunian, New York University, author of Overcome by Modernity: History, Culture, and Community in Interwar Japan

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