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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien


Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien
3-3-6 Kudan-Minami, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-0074
Tel: 03 – 3222 5198, Fax: 03 – 3222 5420


Exploring the Paradox of Japanese NationalismA Domain and Degree Analysis

October 30, 2002 / 6.30 P.M.

Brian McVeigh

Before 1945, Japan was imperialistic, expansionist, and militaristic, with its legitimacy grounded in the emperor system and kokutai. After the implosion of its empire, Japan, according to some observers, became a virtual protectorate of a superpower (US), inward-oriented, and pacifist, with legitimacy grounded in a “peace constitution.” Postimperial Japan has been accused of pursuing neo-mercantilist, economic nationalism. Meanwhile, domestic discussions about the need to “internationalize Japan” are relentless.

In order to account for these paradoxes, McVeigh suggests “domain/degree analysis”: a domain or type of nationalism may be statist, militarist, economic, cultural, linguistic, racial, ethnic, or gendered, etc., and is characterized by varying intensities or “degrees.” Domain/degree analysis describes how a sociopolity may be nationalistic in some ways while not nationalistic in other ways, how the average Japanese can be very much nation-centric while condemning fundamentalist nationalism. To illustrate domain/degree analysis, he focuses on one domain—the religious—and investigates the imperialist legacy of cultural authenticity, the emperor system, pan-Asianism, and Japan-centrism as articulated within a new religious movement. Members of this movement express varying degrees of nationalism by negotiating identity on a shifting continuum of “ordinary”, “accentuated” and “non-Japaneseness.” He argues that domain/degree analysis has implications for appreciating nationalisms in other societies.

Brian McVeigh is Chair of the Cultural and Women’s Studies Dept. at Tokyo Jogakkan College. His research focusses on political anthropology and cultural psychology. Currently he is investigating the anthropology of deception, falsehood, and simulation. His two most recent books are “Japanese Higher Education as Myth” and “Wearing Ideology: State, Schooling, and Self-Presentation in Japan”.