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Kyoto Asian Studies Group
Dec
10
6:00 PM18:00

Kyoto Asian Studies Group

Pedagogical Constitutionalism

Religious Activism, Educational Reform, and Legal Revision in Contemporary Japan

This presentation introduces pedagogical constitutionalism as a tool for understanding links between educational reform, religious activism, and recent attempts to revise Japan’s postwar constitution. I first briefly describe Occupation-era (1945–52) legal reforms in the arenas of religion and education before showing how the 2006 revision of the 1947 Fundamental Law on Education (FLE) served as a crucial test case for revising an Occupation-era law. I then analyze the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) draft constitution of 2012, revealing the party’s presupposition that constitutions should tell people what to think and how to feel rather than simply reflecting abstract political ideals. Pairing various political groups’ recent pro-revision pamphlets with Ministry of Education materials explaining the newly revamped morality education curriculum, I then show how constitutional reform efforts and educational policy changes alike aim to foster particular affective dispositions such as pride. Ultimately, while I agree with the critics of revision that rendering constitutional law in the language of instruction makes it disturbingly easy to prioritize majoritarian claims over the rights of minorities, I also stress that pedagogical constitutionalism ironically re-instantiates the very aspects of the postwar constitution that proponents of revision aim to overcome. Furthermore, because political circumstances continually impede efforts to bring religion (or something like religion) “back” into Japanese public life, the alluring narrative of a return to Japan’s imperial past interferes with understanding the complicated and shifting relationships between subject formation, religious activism, and constitutional revision in contemporary Japan.

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Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan
Nov
13
4:30 PM16:30

Faking Liberties: Religious Freedom in American-Occupied Japan

Americans stationed in occupied Japan at the close of World War II claimed to be bringing religious freedom to a country where it did not exist. They described Japan’s 1889 constitutional guarantee of religious freedom as a fake, and they claimed to be implanting “real religious freedom” in its stead. But in making such claims, the occupiers overlooked inconvenient historical facts. Countering the victors’ narrative, Jolyon Thomas shows that Japanese people were actually involved in a robust debate about religious freedom for decades before the occupation began; he also demonstrates that the American occupiers were far less certain about how to define and protect religious freedom than their triumphalist rhetoric suggested. And whereas post-Occupation histories have commonly assumed that the occupiers introduced the human right of religious freedom to Japan, Thomas argues that the inherently transnational circumstances of military occupation prompted stakeholders to conceive religious freedom as a "human right" in the first place. Along the way, the occupiers and their Japanese counterparts collaboratively constructed a new technical vocabulary about “good” and “bad” religion. The categories they developed in the late 1940s still dictate how academics, journalists, and policymakers working today imagine who deserves religious freedom, what kinds of political practices infringe on religious liberty, and who bears responsibility for doing anything about it.

University of Vermont, Aiken Center 102. 

 
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