August 26, 2021

Conference Panel: the exchange and use of cultured individuals in warrior society in Japan’s early modern period

Aftermath project director, Prof. Rebekah Clements convened a panel “Carriers of Cultural Capital: The exchange and use of cultured individuals in warrior society in the early modern period,” for The 16th International Conference of the European Association for Japanese Studies, hosted online by Ghent University. The panel took place at 8am on Thursday 26th of August, 2021.

Short Abstract:

This panel explores the movement, exchange, and use of human cultural capital by high ranking Japanese warriors, from Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the Shimazu daimyo of the Satsuma domain in the late sixteenth to mid seventeenth centuries, to Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu in the eighteenth.

Long Abstract

This panel explores the movement, exchange, and use of human cultural capital by high ranking Japanese warriors from the late sixteenth to the mid eighteenth centuries. As Mary Elizabeth Berry and others have noted, the exchange of people in the form of hostages and marriage alliances was central to the “matrix of attachment” that underpinned power relations between the Three Unifiers, Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu, and their daimyo. Recently, Morgan Pitelka has delineated the practice of “spectacular accumulation” in which elite warriors demonstrated power through the collection and display of objects including tea vessels and severed heads. Our approach combines both these aspects of warrior society and considers three case studies wherein people who possessed particular forms of cultural capital were “accumulated” and displayed by elite warriors as a sign of their power . Our case studies include aristocratic female scholars in the employment of Hideyoshi (presentation 1) and Yoshiyasu (presentation 3). These women were valued not only for their embodied knowledge of the norms of court society, but also for specific skills in literary scholarship. Our other case study concerns a community of Korean potters acquired by the Shimazu family during Hideyoshi’s Invasions of Korea (presentation 2). They not only represented ties to a foreign state but also a concrete set of artistic skills that became essential to the Satsuma economy. Such examples complicate traditional understandings of Bourdieusian cultural capital because the treatment of the people in question crosses the border between artefacts as cultural capital and embodied cultural capital: as our presenters will show, the individuals concerned were in some sense “collected,” and on occasion even displayed. This is not to deny their essential humanity nor to claim they were identical with objects; but rather to suggest that the role of individuals could be analogous to the collection and display of objects. Mindful of criticisms of Bourdieu’s theories, we also consider the agency of these individuals. Aristocratic women were able to use their positions in daimyo households to benefit their families; Korean potters learned to play the ritual games required of them in order to benefit their community.

Accepted Papers:
  1. “Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu’s human capital: the women.” Prof Gaye Rowley, Waseda University
  2. “Cultural commerce between Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Kaoku Gyokuei.” Prof. Niimi Akihiko, Waseda University.
  3. “Captured human capital: Korean potters and the Satsuma domain.” Prof. Rebekah Clements, ICREA/Autonomous University of Barcelona.