Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Douglas R. Reynolds
Ian C. Fletcher
The Meiji era (1868-1912) in Japanese history was characterized by the extensive adoption of Western institutions, technology, and customs. The dramatic changes that took place caused the era’s intellectuals to ponder Japan's position within the larger global context. The East-West binary was a particularly important part of the discourse as the intellectuals analyzed and criticized the current state of affairs and offered their visions of Japan’s future. This dissertation examines five Meiji intellectuals who had very different orientations and agendas: Fukuzawa Yukichi, an influential philosopher and political theorist; Shimoda Utako, a pioneer of women's education; Uchimura Kanzō, a Christian leader; Okakura Kakuzō, an art critic; and Kōtoku Shūsui, a socialist. Also considered here are related concepts such as "civilization (bunmei)," "barbarism," and "imperialism." Close examination of the five intellectuals' use of the East-West binary reveals that, despite their varied goals, they all placed Japan as the leader of the Eastern
world. Collectively, Meiji intellectuals’ use of the East-West binary elevated both East and West, while largely deemphasizing the middle part of Eurasia and "South," such as Africa and South America.
Racel, Masako N., "Finding their Place in the World: Meiji Intellectuals and the Japanese Construction of an East-West Binary, 1868-1912" (2011). History Dissertations. Paper 26.