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Geographies of Identity in Nineteenth-Century Japan$
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David Howell

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780520240858

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520240858.001.0001

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The Geography of Status

The Geography of Status

(p.20) Chapter 2 The Geography of Status
Geographies of Identity in Nineteenth-Century Japan

David L. Howell

University of California Press

The status system in Japan served as the framework in which political authority was articulated and territory allocated. It integrated the shogunate's “public” nature as a central state apparatus with its “private” character as the administrative organ of the Tokugawa house. The kokudaka system permitted the efficient translation of obligations from agricultural production to a range of feudal duties. A conceptualization of Tokugawa society in terms of the status system is presented. The discrimination directed against outcastes in the Tokugawa period was qualitatively different from the racial and ethnic discrimination practiced in contemporary societies, including Japan. Some violations of status boundaries challenged the premises of the Tokugawa social hierarchy and therefore attracted official concern. The status system pervaded society, and thereby gave meaning to its internal structures, but it did not comprise the totality of social relations, particularly at the level of everyday life.

Keywords:   status system, Tokugawa society, kokudaka system, social hierarchy, discrimination, geography

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