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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Nadin Hee

History, Art History of East Asia, Japanese Studies
Since March 2005
(PhD Students, March 1, 2005 - February 28, 2006)



  • Production of bodies, power and aesthetics in Meiji-Japan
    (PhD: Prof. Ph. Sarasin, University of Zurich)

  • Public representation and social mobility in Meiji-Japan
    (Project as part of the special research 640: Humboldt University Berlin)

  • Museum studies, History of collections
    (Project „Surimono“: Museum Rietberg Zurich, Museum, Museum for Art and Design Zurich, Sainsbury Institute London)

Dissertation Project

Production of Bodies: Power and Aesthetics in Meiji-Japan (1868-1912)

With the opening of Japan after military pressure of the United States in 1954 the relationship and the perception of the “Japanese” body changed cardinally: direct physical encounters and contentions of the Japanese with the strange “western” body occured in the first half of the Meiji-period (1868-1889). As part of the new civilization and enlightenment policy of the Meiji government new body ideal started to be established. I proceed on the assumption that from the 1860ths on the absorption of “western” body ideals had been accomplished in a first step.

In doing so the model of a “civilized” body in against a not “western”, “barbarian” body was constituted. As a result a dispositive of power (the term comes from Michel Foucault), that grasps for the body and forms it, was established. In doing so mechanisms started to work, which had an affect on the aesthetical sensation of each individual and changed and designated their reception of the word as well as their experience, and not at least their relationship with their bodies. In so far body production was dublicated in the 1870ths: verbal and visual codes of interpretation were written into the individual bodies. They became “living allegories” of modernitiy. For this reason we have a double inscription into the body. That means, that an idea, for example a “civilized” haircut, was inscribed into the body as a transfer of the inhibition of long men hair as the new short hair cuts. At the same time it was repeated by the individual bodily representation – the carrier of the short hair cuts – doing so it was propagated as a model of a “civilized” body for other persons. Apart from the production of a “civilized” body I would like to analyse as well different forms of representation of new ideas of a “Japanese” body as well as a “body of the nation” in my PhD.

Against the popular opinion, that a nationalistic attitude did not start until the second half of Meiji period, I intend to feature with this research, that mechanism and structures, which characterized Japanese history of the 20th century originated in early Meiji Japan. For the time of change I use the term “self colonization” and try not to stick to suggestions of a linear modernization. Core of my analysis is the connection between aesthetics, representation of nation and production of bodies as a form of power.