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PhD Defence

The Waste of Society as Seen through Women’s Eyes: Waste, Gender, and National Belonging in Japan

  • Rebecca Tompkins
Thursday 21 March 2019
Academy Building
Rapenburg 73
2311 GJ Leiden

This dissertation discusses “waste” and related concepts such as sanitation, hygiene, and recycling as a lens through which to analyze the incorporation of women into the nation-state (josei no kokuminka) in modern Japan (from 1868 to the present). During the state-led “modernization” of the Meiji period (1868-1912), a new ideology of the home (katei) began to emerge which placed women at the center of family life, as a housewife who supported her husband and raised her children. This “feminization and privatization of the home” excluded domestic activities, and the women who engaged in them, from the public sphere, though the home as a private and intimate space was celebrated as such in national discourse. The connection between women and the state, which had previously been only through their husbands and children, became a direct relationship after the First World War once the state realized the importance of the household to national policies. This creation of a direct relationship between women and the state through women’s domestic duties signified the incorporation of women into the nation-state.

Waste represents an ideal site to examine the relationship between women and the nation-state because of its connection to both the home (where municipal waste is generated, and where socially constructed gender norms and ideals like “good wife, wise mother” [ryōsai kenbo] have placed women) and the state (due to the state’s legal responsibility, from the late nineteenth century, to manage municipal waste).

Download the full summary in Dutch (pdf)

Funding organisations

NWO Vici Grant for “Garbage Matters: A Comparative History of Waste in East Asia” (2013-2018, grant number 277-53-006)

Japan Foundation Doctoral Fellowship (2014-2015)


  • Prof. K.J. Cwiertka


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PhD dissertations

PhD dissertations by Leiden PhD students are available digitally after the defence through the Leiden Repository, that offers free access to these PhD dissertations. Please note that in some cases a dissertation may be under embargo temporarily and access to its full-text version will only be granted later.

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