Façade Truths in Tokugawa Japan and Beyond
Façade Truths in Tokugawa Japan and Beyond is inspired by a 2012 book by Luke Roberts. In Performing the Great Peace: Political Space and Open Secrets in Tokugawa Japan, Roberts argues that the politics of early modern Japan turned on an interplay of two socially agreed versions of reality: omote (literally: face, façade, surface, also used in the sense of ritual and decorum) and uchi (the inside of a delegated political space, also used in the sense of confidential versions of reality), connected through naishō interactions (confidential understandings and agreements). Omote and naishō found arresting expressions in the political life of early modern Japan, such as high officials assembling around a lord’s deathbed to solemnly witness him adopt an heir––when in fact, as everyone present knew but did not outwardly acknowledge, the lord had died weeks earlier.
(For a brisk review of Performing the Great Peace, click here.)
The workshop brings together Tokugawa historians with experts in other times, places, and disciplines. It has two goals:
(1) To take stock of how the concepts of omote, uchi, and naishō have helped historians of Japan understand phenomena they would otherwise have overlooked or misunderstood.
(2) To put omote and naishō in conversation with analogues, close or distant, in other societies: theater states, performative governance, consensūs, decorum, systemic lying, legal fictions, embodied fictions, honestas, hypocrisy, Heuchelei, politique, constructive misunderstandings, studied ignorance, cognitive dualism, and lies mutually agreed upon, among others. In so doing, we will think about what their taxonomy should be, and explore what conceptual language is most productive of insights into such politically or socially inflected versions of reality.