After Heroism: Must “Real” Soldiers Die?

After Heroism: Must "Real" Soldiers Die?

Sabine Frühstück - Professor of Modern Japanese Cultural Studies, University of California - Santa Barbara

Wednesday, September 10, 2008 - 5:00pm to 6:30pm
Room 203, Henry R. Luce Hall See map
34 Hillhouse Avenue
New Haven, CT 6511

In 1876 the Japanese government installed an Army Medical Inspector General as the central authority for the physical examination of conscripts, all twenty-year-old men. This move by the Japanese state and, by extension, the imperial armed forces established the notion that membership in the body politic hinged upon true manhood, which then manifested itself only in men who could and were willing to fight.

Today’s military is no longer tied in with the body politic in the manner of the imperialist state. Members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces labor in the name of a state that is prohibited from waging war. Thus, manhood and masculinity are no longer intertwined with those military values. Today the military trains for battle so that it would not use those skills, prepares for war so that it would not happen, and ultimately proves its ability if it remains unnecessary.

Despite this state of affairs that has characterized more than sixty years of Japan’s recent history, the notion remains powerful in international (as well as some domestic) debates about Japan’s potential military roles, that full membership in the community of “real men” and full membership in the international community of “normal states” remain contingent upon a military with not only violent capabilities but also the willingness to use them for war-making. In this presentation, I will examine the immediate repercussions of the concern with the normalcy of the Japanese state and its military for individual soldiers, for their sense of what constitutes “normal soldiers” and “real men.”

Biographical Note: Sabine Frühstück is Professor of Modern Japanese Cultural Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the author of Colonizing Sex: Sexology and Social Control in Modern Japan (2003), Uneasy Warriors: Gender, Memory and Popular Culture in the Japanese Army (2007; Japanese transl. 2008) and the co-editor of The Culture of Japan as Seen through Its Leisure (1998) and Neue Geschichten der Sexualität: Beispiele aus Ostasian und Zentraleuropa (1999). Frühstück is currently working on a transnational and interdisciplinary book on Playing War: The Militarization of Childhood in the Twentieth Century and completing an edited volume on Recreating Japanese Men (with Anne Walthall).