January 22, 2018/ 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

6275 Bunche Hall

Welfare and Warfare: Population Politics in Wartime Japan

Colloquium with Sujin Lee, Postdoctoral Fellow

This presentation explores the process through which the Japanese wartime population policies were established under the banner of total mobilization. The historical trajectory from the creation of the Ministry of Health and Welfare (Kōsei-sho, MHW) in January 1938 to the establishment of the Healthy People Bureau (Kenmin-kyoku) under MHW in November 1943 reveals the shifting focus of population discourses from overpopulation to the mobilization of human resources. More specifically, a shift in population discourses occurred in the wake of a total war, from addressing social problems related to population growth and distribution to increasing population size and improving population health. In the meantime, however, wartime population discourses reflected continuities with the interwar discourses with respect to the integrated and scientific control of the population. This presentation focuses on the wartime population discourses, primarily deployed by MHW and its subsidiary organizations, that aimed at maximizing workforce capability, as encapsulated by the slogan “healthy soldiers and healthy people (kenpei kenmin).” In arguing that the wartime population policies materialized the interwar blueprints for the biopolitical state, this presentation provides a revealing look into the emergence of the warfare/welfare state and the conditions under which the warfare and welfare systems redefined as well as reinforced each other.

About the Speaker

Sujin Lee received her PhD from the Department of History at Cornell University in 2017 and also holds an MA in Japanese History from Yonsei University, Korea. Her research interests encompass the Japanese Empire and its aftermath, Foucauldian biopolitics, population discourses, eugenics, and the relationship between capitalist production and sexual reproduction. Her dissertation, entitled “Problematizing Population: Politics of Birth Control and Eugenics in Interwar Japan” focuses on three strands of inquiry: the reappraisal of eugenics and birth control movements as transnational, scientific discourses on population control during the interwar period; the impacts of multiple population discourses on the reconfiguration of the Japanese population in terms of both quality and quantity, and the target of the government; and the intersection of governmentality, scientific progressivism, and imperialism. At UCLA, she is planning to rewrite her dissertation into a book under the working title Problematic Bodies: Politics of Population Discourses in the Japanese Empire (1918-1945), and teach an undergraduate course about the history of the Japanese Empire particularly focused around the making of scientific knowledge regarding race and gender classifications.

Download file: 1.22.17-sujin-lee-flyer-kq-ibq.pdf