In this sweeping study of the mapping and remapping of male-male sexuality over four centuries of Japanese history, Gregory Pflugfelder explores the languages of medicine, law, and popular culture from the seventeenth century through the American Occupation.
Pflugfelder opens with fascinating speculations about how an Edo translator might grapple with a twentieth-century text on homosexuality, then turns to law, literature, newspaper articles, medical tracts, and other sources to discover Japanese attitudes toward sexuality over the centuries. During each of three major eras, he argues, one field dominated discourse on male-male sexual relations: popular culture in the Edo period (1600-1868), jurisprudence in the Meiji period (1868-1912), and medicine in the twentieth century.
This multidisciplinary and theoretically engaged analysis will interest not only students and scholars of Japan but also readers of gay studies, literary studies, gender studies, and cultural studies.
About the Author
Gregory M. Pflugfelder is Associate Professor of Japanese History, Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures and Department of History at Columbia University, and author of Seiji to daidokoro (Politics of the kitchen) (1986).
"This is scholarship at its best. Gregory Pflugfelder' s wide-ranging study of male-male sexuality in Japan is brilliantly conceived and scrupulously argued. He shows how cultural constructs shaped the ways in which Japanese have conceptualized male-male sexuality from the Edo period through the early twentieth century. Wisely he takes as his subject discourse about sexuality, not sexual activity. He examines popular, legal, and medical dimensions of this discourse, noting the interaction among these domains and the impact on them of foreign ideas and larger changes in Japanese society." — Monumenta Nipponica
"The book has great merit. Meticulously researched and elegantly written, it stands as a foundational piece of scholarship, one that future studies of Japanese sexualities and masculinities will respond to for years come. That, in itself, is a singular accomplishment, and one that is achieved by very few scholars." — Journal of Asian Studies
"Cartographies of Desire is the best book on the topic of nanshoku to date, not only in English, but in any language, and it is unlikely to be surpassed any time soon. . . . It combines meticulous research and superb analysis, and is indeed a theoretically nuanced discussion of representations of male-male sexuality that renders justice to the scope and significance of the topic." — Journal of Japanese Studies
"Japan's history. Pflugfelder's analysis of discourses on homosexuality in the Edo period (1600-1868) is vastly superior to any we have seen before . . . Pflugfelder offers important insights into the reasons why homosexuality in Japan manifests itself as it does today, with popular culture again providing the major discourse." — Social Science Japan Journal
"A meticulous and brilliantly argued piece of scholarship and should become the definitive work on early-modern Japanese male homosexuality." — Culture, Health & Sexuality
"This book is an extraordinary contribution to the substantial, growing amount of English-language scholarship on the history of homosexuality in Japan. . . . This is an indispensable work, there being nothing comparable even in Japanese, and it will have a major impact on studies of male-male sexuality in global perspective." — American Historical Review
"A landmark book. It deserves reading and rereading, not only for its theoretical sophistication and wealth of historical detail, but also for the clear proof it offers that the study of sexuality has the potential to generate important insights about vast areas of the human past." — Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies