Motherly Affection as Tactics: Negotiating the Bourgeois Household in Higuchi Ichiyō’s Kono ko

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Abstract

This article explores the discursive formation of mid-Meiji households by analyzing Higuchi Ichiyō’s Kono ko (This Child, 1896), a novella comprising a young mother’s monologue in its entirety. Earlier scholarship has treated the piece as a story about the mother’s conformity to dominant gender ideology, primarily regarding her husband. To demonstrate negotiations between the mother and domestic staff within her household, given the existing power structure, this study also highlights changing relationships revealed in the monologue. I employ the framework of Michel de Certeau’s “tactics,” which explains an individual’s creative means of opening up a space for alternative interactions without drastically changing the dominant structure. These “tactics” can help us better understand the role of the mother’s emotional expressions that leads her to reformulate her domestic work relations. This new relation, I will argue, does not deviate from the emergent Meiji bourgeois culture that appreciated individual spontaneity to maintain both efficient and affective labor. By offering a close textual analysis of the piece, this study aims to broaden our understanding of mid-Meiji bourgeois domesticity and the complex gender and class relations of modern Japanese discursive space.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-339
Number of pages19
JournalAsian Journal of Women's Studies
Volume23
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Jul 3

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies

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