Medium Post #2

Kevin Ghookas
2 min readJan 16, 2021

Why is Tsurumi’s argument about the importance of Japanese women’s labor power to nation-building an important intervention to week 1’s theorizations of nationalism? On the flip side, what experiences might focusing too much on this point occlude?

Anderson and McClintock’s theorizations of nationalism mentioned ideas of exclusion, mostly with regards to gender and race, as being a necessity in order for nationalism to exist. Tsurumi brings this to light in Whose History is it Anyway? by depicting the major contributions that women had towards the growth of the Meiji economy through their provision of labor. Women in the Meiji period were allowed to work due to the Civil Codes, and the labor they provided allowed the economy to rapidly grow as a result. This growth contributed greatly to the industrialization of Japan, and allowed for a greater sense of nationalism to develop.

However, focusing too much on the benefits women's labor had overlooks the harsh conditions and blatant injustices they were subjected to. Women had to work in brutal conditions for very long hours, all the while making wages significantly lower than those of men. They were subjected to poor living conditions, and had to undergo other forms of physical, mental, and emotional abuse while working in textile factories. Furthermore, many of these women accepted these conditions as normal, and were glad to be able to provide for their families.

All of this exploitation of labor was done in the name of nation-building and nationalism, showing McClintock’s idea that women are sacrificed in order to maintain the integrity of the nation.