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.