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William Farge

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The Politics of Culture and the Art of Dissent in Early Modern Japan

The Tokugawa shogunate, which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868, has been characterized in Western history books as an age of peace and tranquility when commoners, peasants, and even samurai were subservient to a powerful bakufu (military government). This article shows clearly that this perception of a docile population is mistaken and that the eighteenth century was rather a time of social upheaval. Writers of subversive, underground texts challenged the social hierarchy and the repressive government censorship of the arts and literature. Popular satirists exposed government officials as perpetrators of injustice against those on the fringes of society, such as the geisha.

Baba Bunkö, Tokugawa shogunate, Japan, satire, social protest, bakufu, military government, censorship, Confucianism, Buddhism, Shinto

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 33, No. 2 (2006): 63-76