The burakumin, Japan’s largest minority group, have been the focus of an extensive yet strikingly homogenous body of Japanese language research. The master narrative in much of this work typically links burakumin to premodern occupational groups which engaged in a number of socially polluting tasks like tanning and leatherwork. This master narrative, however, when subjected to close scrutiny, tends to raise more questions than it answers, particularly for the historian. Is there really firm historical continuity between premodern outcaste and modern burakumin communities? Is the discrimination experienced by historic and contemporary outcaste communities actually the same? Does the way burakumin frame their own experience significantly affect mainstream understandings of their plight? Embodying Difference: The Making of Burakumin in Modern Japan, by Timothy D. Amos, is the result of a decade-and-a-half-long search for answers to these questions.
September 2011 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3579-8 / $33.00 (PAPER)
Confluences of Medicine in Medieval Japan: Buddhist Healing, Chinese Knowledge, Islamic Formulas, and Wounds of War, by Andrew Edmund Goble, is the first book-length exploration in English of issues of medicine and society in premodern Japan. This multifaceted study weaves a rich tapestry of Buddhist healing practices, Chinese medical knowledge, Asian pharmaceuticals, and Islamic formulas as it elucidates their appropriation and integration into medieval Japanese medicine. It expands the parameters of the study of medicine in East Asia, which to date has focused on the subject in individual countries, and introduces the dynamics of interaction and exchange that coursed through the East Asian macro-culture.
September 2011 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3500-2 / $52.00 (CLOTH)
Bringing Zen Home: The Healing Heart of Japanese Women’s Rituals, by Paula Arai, brings a fresh perspective to Zen scholarship by uncovering a previously unrecognized but nonetheless vibrant strand of lay practice. The creativity of domestic Zen is evident in the ritual activities that women fashion, weaving tradition and innovation, to gain a sense of wholeness and balance in the midst of illness, loss, and anguish. Their rituals include chanting, ingesting elixirs and consecrated substances, and contemplative approaches that elevate cleaning, cooking, child-rearing, and caring for the sick and dying into spiritual disciplines. Creating beauty is central to domestic Zen and figures prominently in Arai’s analyses.
September 2011 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3535-4 / $52.00 (CLOTH)