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Infanticide and Population Growth in Eastern Japan, 1660-1950

Fabian Drixler (Author)

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 439 pages
ISBN: 9780520272439
May 2013
$85.00, £66.00
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This book tells the story of a society reversing deeply held worldviews and revolutionizing its demography. In parts of eighteenth-century Japan, couples raised only two or three children. As villages shrank and domain headcounts dwindled, posters of child-murdering she-devils began to appear, and governments offered to pay their subjects to have more children. In these pages, the long conflict over the meaning of infanticide comes to life once again. Those who killed babies saw themselves as responsible parents to their chosen children. Those who opposed infanticide redrew the boundaries of humanity so as to encompass newborn infants and exclude those who would not raise them. In Eastern Japan, the focus of this book, population growth resumed in the nineteenth century. According to its village registers, more and more parents reared all their children. Others persisted in the old ways, leaving traces of hundreds of thousands of infanticides in the statistics of the modern Japanese state. Nonetheless, by 1925, total fertility rates approached six children per women in the very lands where raising four had once been considered profligate. This reverse fertility transition suggests that the demographic history of the world is more interesting than paradigms of unidirectional change would have us believe, and that the future of fertility and population growth may yet hold many surprises.
List of Illustrations
A Note on Conventions

1. Introduction: Contested Worldviews and a Demographic Revolution

2. Three Cultures of Family Planning
3. Humans, Animals, and Newborn Children
4. Infanticide and Immortality: The Logic of the Stem Household
5. The Material and Moral Economy of Infanticide
6. The Logic of Infant Selection
7. The Ghosts of Missing Children: Four Approaches to Estimating the Rate of Infanticide

8. Infanticide and Extinction
9. “Inferior Even to Animals”: Moral Suasion and the Boundaries of Humanity
10. Subsidies and Surveillance
11. Even a Strong Castle Cannot be Defended without Soldiers: Infanticide and National Security
12. Infanticide and the Geography of Civilization
13. Epilogue: Infanticide in the Shadows of the Modern State
14. Conclusion

Appendix 1. The Own-Children Method and Its Mortality Assumptions
Appendix 2. Sampling Biases, Sources of Error, and the Characteristics of the Ten Provinces Dataset
Appendix 3. The Villages of the Ten Provinces Dataset
Appendix 4. Total Fertility Rates in the Districts of the Ten Provinces
Appendix 5. Infanticide Reputations
Appendix 6. Scrolls and Votive Tablets with Infanticide Scenes
Appendix 7. Childrearing Subsidies and Pregnancy Surveillance by Domain

Fabian Drixler teaches Japanese history at Yale University.
"Mabiki is a fabulous piece of historical scholarship on an important topic that until now had been relegated to the realm of traditional Japanese folktales."—Martin Dusinberre American Historical Review
"This complex and immensely valuable book is certainly essential reading."—Luke S. Roberts Journal of Interdisciplinary History
“Innovative, interesting, and rewarding . . . [an] extremely stimulating book.”—Osamu Saito Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies
"Mabiki skillfully blends statistical and textual analysis. . . . Drixler’s methodology is rich and complex. . . . The book is packed with interesting insights that will appeal to a wide range of readers."—Robert Eskildsen Public Affairs
"Mabiki is a model of methodological sophistication, imaginative and thorough use of primary sources, and incisive writing... an immensely important work and a must-read."—Monumenta Nipponica
"Mabiki shows how reproductive choices are embedded in dynamic cultural, social, and economic contexts. Marshaling evidence as diverse as religious artifacts and computer simulations, Fabian Drixler offers a compelling account of changes in the culture of infanticide over three centuries of Japanese history."—George Alter, Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, University of Michigan

"International work in Japanese studies is intellectually vibrant and booming in a way that most outsiders to the field probably don't realize. Among this excellent work, Drixler's Mabiki is one of the most important books to appear in any field of Japanese studies in many years. It is also a book that will disturb many readers and certainly be widely read, discussed and debated."—Mark Metzler, University of Texas at Austin

"This book removes any question that infanticide was a widespread practice in eastern Japan, as well as a handful of other regions -- not only throughout the Edo period but well into the twentieth century. Drixler's analysis will force future scholars who are thinking about demography, family, gender, social policy, ethnography, and other topics to include infanticide in their analyses. The implications are broad, especially for discussions regarding the forces that slowed Edo-period population growth." —William Johnston, Wesleyan University

Gaddis Smith International Book Prize, Yale MacMillan Center, Yale

Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Prize, Office of the Dean of Yale College, Yale

2014 Allan Sharlin Memorial Award, Social Science History Association

2015 John Whitney Hall Book Prize, Association for Asian Studies

Watch an interview with Fabian Drixler, author of Mabiki, on Yale University's The MacMillan Report.

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