Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

In Search of the Japanese Family: Modernity, Social Change, and Women's Lives in Contemporary Japan

This book project explores the changing dynamics of marriage and family life in postwar Japan based on an examination of the life histories of single mothers.

2009 - 2010
Aya Ezawa
NWO Replacement (Vervangings) Subsidy NWO Replacement (Vervangings) Subsidy

Using an interdisciplinary approach, my project seeks to contribute to an understanding of the processes which have shaped family life in twentieth century Japan, and thereby extend existing theories of the modern family. To explore these processes, my analysis relies on life history interviews I conducted with divorced and unmarried single mothers in Tokyo. 

Single mothers provide unique insight into the changing dynamics of family life in Japan, as women who have to the most part directly experienced marriage and the normative ideal of family as married wives and mothers, but who have also been marginalized by the same ideal as single mothers. Their stories allow us to see the pressures women face in getting married and becoming a mother, and how women's lives are shaped by family norms. Their personal experiences and perspectives also allow insight into the ways in which women respond to, resist and reinterpret the meaning of family in contemporary Japan. 

In examining both the character and operation of family norms, as well as their negotiation in everyday life, I hope to contribute to an understanding of the complex interactions between family, modernity and social change in contemporary Japan.

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