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  • Historische Frauenforschung in Japan: Die Rekonstruktion der Vergangenheit in Takamure Itsues "Geschichte der Frau" (Josei no rekishi)
  • Ulrike Wöhr
Historische Frauenforschung in Japan: Die Rekonstruktion der Vergangenheit in Takamure Itsues "Geschichte der Frau" (Josei no rekishi). By Andrea Germer. Munich: Iudicium Verlag, 2003. 425 pages. Hardcover €52.00.

"The problem is . . . that the field of women's history in the West developed in complete isolation from its Japanese counterpart" (p. 59). This provocative quote gives a suggestion of the instructive and thought-provoking perspective to be found in this book, the title of which may be translated as "Women's History in Japan: The Reconstruction of the Past in Takamure Itsue's 'The History of Woman' (Josei no rekishi)." It is the first full-length study in a Western language (and probably any language apart from Japanese) on Takamure Itsue, the founder of feminist women's history in Japan. The theoretical framework of this study, which draws, among others, on historiographical theory, the history and sociology of science, women's (or gender) history, and women's (or gender) studies, makes this volume an important contribution to all those fields. The discussion of Takamure and her work in the context of the social, intellectual, and political history of Japan from Meiji to the present (with a focus on the 1950s) further makes this book a valuable source for anyone studying modern Japan.

In the introduction, Andrea Germer emphasizes the significance of Takamure Itsue as a major theoretician of the first wave of the Japanese women's movement. In 1931, Takamure retreated from the movement—which nevertheless continued to support her—and turned to women's history, "in order to provide evidence for the necessity of building a society that will protect mother and child" and to conceive "a historical science from the standpoint of woman" (Takamure; quoted by Germer, pp. 17-18). Takamure thus imagined and practiced women's history not as a "supplement to history" (Virginia Woolf, 1929), but as a theoretical redefinition and conscious rewriting of history, and she did so much earlier than the pioneers of women's history in Europe and the U.S. Takamure gained recognition as a historian through her research on the marriage system of ancient Japan (Bokeisei no kenkyû, 1938; Shôseikon no kenkyû, 1953). In contrast to these earlier publications, Josei no rekishi (1954-1958) was primarily conceived for a general readership, which it found, most importantly, within the second Japanese women's movement from the 1970s onwards. Over its more than one thousand pages, Takamure develops a grand narrative from ancient times to the present, situating Japanese history within world history. It is these characteristics that led Germer to focus on Josei no rekishi (while drawing on Takamure's other writings, as well), the purpose of her analysis being to reconstruct Takamure's narrative of a "history of women," to reveal her theoretical premises, and to assess her contribution to research on women's history, which had been firmly in the hands of male historians before Takamure embarked on her life project. Germer also seeks to clarify the influence of Takamure's work on both researchers of Japanese women's history and the protagonists of the second wave of the women's movement. [End Page 272]

In chapter 2, Germer gives an account of Takamure's life up to the time when she began to write Josei no rekishi, based on her autobiography and her journals (this is supplemented by a part directly preceding the analysis of Josei no rekishi, where the author explains Takamure's physical and mental condition during the 1950s, when she was writing this work). Here, the author reconstructs the biographical and sociopolitical contexts of Takamure's development as an intellectual (e.g., the circumstances surrounding the stillbirth of her child and the sense of alienation she experienced as a housewife, factors that became sources of her maternalism and her ideal of women as producers), as well as her early feminist and anarchist thought. Examining Takamure's start as a poet and her autobiographical self-representation in almost mythical terms, Germer points to the proximity between history and poetry, a connection that the following...


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