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Juvenile Science and the Japanese Nation: Shōnen’en and the cultivation of scientific subjects

Meade, Ruselle 2019. Juvenile Science and the Japanese Nation: Shōnen’en and the cultivation of scientific subjects. Japan Review 34 (12) , pp. 113-137. 10.15055/00007410
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Juveniles were the foremost target of attempts to transform the Japanese people into imperial subjects during the late nineteenth century, with prominent intellectuals marshalling the influence of mass media in support of this goal. This essay examines the case of Shōnen’en (1888–1895), Japan’s first major juvenile magazine, exploring its use of science in shaping the identity of the modern imperial subject. With the turn to morals-driven education in the mid-Meiji period, the government sidelined science instruction in schools, considering it a Western import detrimental to developing loyalty to the emperor. However, at this time, Shōnen’en’s editor placed great emphasis on science, believing it to be not only compatible with, but also an important means of nurturing juvenile subjecthood. Drawing on an image of science that had taken shape during the eighteenth century, when scientific discovery came to be seen as an endeavor requiring both intellectual and physical prowess, Shōnen’en (Youth’s garden) offered Japanese adolescents an imaginary landscape in which they could envisage themselves as heroic and truth-seeking imperial officers. This examination of a magazine published before Japan’s modern international wars broadens our understanding of the role of science in mid-Meiji Japan by demonstrating how an influential publication used science to shape the identity of the modern imperial subject, and shows that these efforts predated the establishment of Japan’s formal empire.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Modern Languages
ISSN: 0915-0986
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 10 August 2019
Date of Acceptance: 18 June 2019
Last Modified: 03 May 2020 16:08

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