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In Session: The Rural as Method: Culture, Politics, and Society beyond the Cities in 20th Century Japan
2: Agriculture is the Root, Again: Nōhonshakai (1932) and the Continual Redefinition of Agrarian Politics
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
Waseda University, United States
Many formations of agrarianist thought, practice, and politics emerged in Japan between the first of appearance of the term nōhonshugi (agriculture-is-the-root-ism) in the mid-Meiji period and the re-emergence of the term in the early Shōwa period. Though nōhonshugi has come to sometimes be used synonymously with interwar agrarianism in Japan, this paper argues that not only was nôhonshugi not the only form of interwar agrarianism, the term itself was constantly being defined and redefined, even by those who worked ardently under its name during its heyday. This paper examines the magazine Nōhonshakai, published in early 1932, one such attempt to give expression to nōhonshugi in the early Shōwa period. Published by an association called the Nōhonrenmei, the magazine, written presumably for a rural readership, did not contain practical farming or housekeeping tips, nor content related to the science of agriculture, or articles about specific agricultural policies. Instead, Nōhonshakai focused on the politics and literature of the nôson (rural villages) and reported on the Nōhonrenmei’s attempts to form national networks of agrarian scholars, educators, writers, and polemicists. By looking at the variety of ideological opponents addressed in the pages the magazine, and the disagreements between members of the Nōhonrenmei, especially regarding involvement in party politics, reading Nōhonshakai shows us how contested the politics and culture of agrarianism were in the early 1930s, even within this particular attempt to create a coherent and comprehensive ideology.