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Title:Motherhood, Family, and Inequality in Contemporary Japan
Author(s):Ezawa, Aya Elise
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Lie, John
Department / Program:Sociology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Women's Studies
Abstract:This dissertation explores how particular models of family and motherhood are reinforced in contemporary Japan, and give rise to significant social distinctions between families and mothers. Based on documentary research and forty life history interviews with single mothers conducted in Tokyo, I examine how norms of family and motherhood are articulated through policies, institutions, and in everyday life. From the perspective of single mothers, I argue, ideas of family constitute not merely cultural ideals, but social forces, which marginalize them from mainstream Japanese society. More specifically, I explore the historical construction of ideals and entitlements of motherhood through state campaigns and welfare policies, and their shifting characteristics across different time periods and state regimes. Rather than taking a particular 'cultural' norm of family for granted, I illuminate its historical reinforcement and evolution. Turning to the present, I portray how norms of family and distinctions between families and mothers are institutionalized in everyday practice. In analyzing mothers' encounters with the family registration system, I show how mothers come to conceive of single motherhood as a minority identity. Like Koreans and the Burakumin minority, single mothers are not differentiated by visible or personal traits, but markers made identifiable through the family registration system. I further explore the everyday implications of single motherhood with a discussion of how mothers manage and interpret their everyday life as (mostly) working mothers. Middle-class mothers in particular experienced anxieties about a decline in their income, consumption, and children's access to education and careers. Mothers from low-income backgrounds saw little difference in their lifestyle, but confirmed structural disadvantages in education and career facing children from low-income and single parent families. In so doing, they underlined perceived class dimensions of single motherhood. In exploring single mothers' differentiation from other mothers, as well as differences between single mothers, my aim is not to demonstrate single motherhood as a particular category of women. Instead, they provide a window on the operation of gender and family distinctions affecting women and families in contemporary Japanese society.
Issue Date:2002
Description:193 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2002.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3070298
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-28
Date Deposited:2002

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