Professor Mariko Tamanoi


Research Projects


Current Project

Currently being elaborated - will be published shortly.

Memory Maps: The State and Manchuria in Postwar Japan (2009)

In this project, I went out of the discipline of anthropology and of the national boundary of Japan to history and the Japanese Empire. Nevertheless, this project is a continuation of project 1 in two ways. First, the project is also based on my fieldwork in Nagano from 1988 (and in Tokyo from 1996). Second, the project also deals with the intersection of history and memory. The end of Japan’s Empire produced a large number of war orphans in both Japan proper and Japan’s overseas empire. In this project, I focus on the fates of children of Japanese farmers who immigrated to Northeast China (Manchuria) before 1945. Due to the Soviet’s invasion of Manchuria, Japan’s defeat, and a harsh winter that followed, many of these children perished while those who survived but orphaned found homes in Northeast China. This project collects the memories of these “children” (who are now adults), their parents, and their Chinese adoptive parents, and relates them in what I call “memory maps.” The total war of the 20th century, which mobilized both soldiers and civilians, brought multiple consequences upon the lives of the Japanese. The lives of some were also affected by the lives of their enemies. My book explores the ways in which the memories of the Japanese and Chinese civilians question and challenge those consequences, and criticize Japan’s imperial project in northeast China.

Under the Shadow of Nationalism: Politics and Poetics of Rural Japanese Women (1998)

Who writes a national/official history? Whose voices and memories are reflected in it? Does the history of Japan (or any other nation) represents the totality of what happened in and to Japan in the past?
This project is based on my long-term fieldwork in Nagano Prefecture in Japan. In the early 1980s, I noticed several groups of women in rural Nagano, who regularly gathered to talk and write their own histories, which they thought had not been reflected in the school textbooks of Japanese history. They were made into Japan’s national subjects; they were expected to give as many children as possible and raise them to fine soldiers; and they were expected to produce food for the entire nation so that Japan would win the wars. The hard labor of these women were only recognized in passing in such textbooks, yet this national history took it for granted that these women were willing to toil their bodies for the nation. In Under the Shadow of Nationalism, I tried to gather the voices of rural women who lived before, during and after the Asia Pacific War in Nagano, the voices that protested against the way in which they had been represented/neglected in Japan’s national history. Since very young, these women worked as nursemaids, factory women, farmers, daughters, wives and mothers. It is these women’s voices of resistance against (and complicity in) the official history of Japan that I explored in this project.