Organized Panel Session
Texts about children generally acknowledge their importance as future adults, but at the same time seek to shape that burgeoning subjectivity. Literature directed at children also accepts that the child has its own viewpoint – but invariably posits a childhood defined by adults. The same figures into the depiction of children in visual media, where childishness is both celebrated and fetishized. Even when the child speaks for itself, it can only do so in forums designated and provided by adults. This panel highlights how Japanese cultural production from around 1880 to 1960 deployed children as promising objects with a future subjecthood, providing diverse snapshots of the contradictory discourse on Japanese childhood and national identity.
Each paper examines how media and literature for and about children were, at the same time, mobilizing childhood for the national cause. Pieter Van Lommel will introduce a pedagogical genre popular during Meiji, the “educational novel,” and how it was used to disseminate modern concepts of education and childhood. Melek Ortabasi will examine how concepts of childhood were shaped in translation by tracing the reception of three Western children’s classics in Japan during Meiji and Taishô. Drawing on visual media from woodblocks to photographs, Sabine Frühstück will then discuss how imagery of children functioned to enhance Japan’s imperialist project from the Sino-Japanese War onwards. Sam Perry will continue discussing the connection between children and war by showing the ways in which childhood voices were marshaled during the Korean War to make sense of Japan's postwar experience.