Cultivating Class: Tokyo Imperial University and the Rise of a Middle-Class Society in Modern Japan

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Middle Class
Tokyo Imperial University
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This dissertation argues that Tokyo Imperial University (Tōdai), the top school in Japan promoted the rise of a middle-class society in modern Japan. This dissertation clarifies how the university served as a transnational platform where Japanese educators accepted the idea of the middle class as the "core" of a new Japan, and eventually produced a mass middle-class society, that is, a society with a widely shared middle-class identity. In so doing, the study historicizes the enrichment of the middle-class idea and shows that the contemporary sense of the middle class, i.e. people with incomes within a certain range, is a product of history. In understanding the members of the middle class as modern selves seeking distinction from the old aristocracy and manual laborers through meritocratic endeavors, the study shows how Tōdai institutionalized the formation of middle-class citizens and their culture, and how this process mediated a transformation in the nature of the middle class from wealthy elites to the struggling masses in pursuit of elite status whose class formation was statistically gauged and institutionally managed. This dissertation conceptualizes Tōdai collegiate society, which previous scholarship explored as an academic community, as a critical locus for the birth of middle-class discourses, citizens, and the social dissemination of middle-class cultural practices. I look at the university as a social community where professors, alumni and students, developed middle-class values and institutions, inspired by the global flowering of modern education, consumer culture, welfare programs, amateur sports, health culture, and employment practices,. This dissertation highlights a range of middle-class practices promoted by numerous Tōdai institutions--the Red Gate Student Consumer Cooperative, Student Office welfare programs, the Tōdai Athletic Association, the Tōdai Student Medical Center, and career services programs. Also the study examines how middle-class values and practices at Tōdai enveloped the entire society by looking at the controlled economy, student welfare, sports popularization, labor service programs and health administration in wartime Japan. This dissertation portrays the middle-class experience as a life-long pursuit of the individual and situates education at Tōdai as a critical phase of life fashioning a middle-class way of life. While previous research has explored specific aspects of middle-class life, this dissertation examines a nexus of middle-class practices pursued by individual students at a particular institution. In so doing, the study shows how the vision of the people and their lifestyle were co-constituted in the space of higher education, embedding higher education in the middle-class experience in Japan.

Frederick R. Dickinson
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