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Politics, Work, Identity: Educational Theories and Practices in Meiji Era Fukuoka, 1879-1918


This dissertation is an examination of non-formal education during the Meiji (1868-1912) and early Taisho (1912-1926) periods in Japan, through the regional lens of Fukuoka prefecture in northern Kyushu. While most historical discussions of education in Japan have limited their analyses to the central education system and its expansion, I extend the field of educational inquiry to include sites and organizations that have been overlooked. In particular, I explore the explicit and implicit educational activities carried out by members of the Movement for Freedom and Popular Rights and by coal industrialists in the region. By comparing and contrasting these disparate areas of educational activity, I emphasize underlying themes that were implicated in both: region, identity, paternalism, and the possibility of liberation.

Utilizing an analytic framework that emphasizes the intellectual and institutional aspects of pedagogy, my dissertation explores the educational ideas or theories of both sets of actors - who, what, and how they wanted to teach - as well as the ways in which they attempted to implement those ideas. Neither popular rights activists nor coal industrialists showed much concern for educational content, instead emphasizing its perceived moral and social effects. Therefore, they attributed educational value to a variety of sites and settings, from public gatherings and the popular press to mutual-aid associations and home life itself, all of which had perceived socializing properties. Finally, I explore the role that educational theory and practice plays in the constitution of identity itself by analyzing an overlooked consequence of both sets of activities: the creation of the "people" and "coal miners" as enduring concepts in Japanese social and political discourse, both referring to constituencies that require the educational intervention of enlightened superiors.

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