Discourses of Discipline: An Anthropology of Corporal Punishment in Japan's Schools and Sports

Book Cover


Miller, Aaron L.
Japan Research Monograph 17
2013. 245 pp.
ISBN-13 978-1-55729-105-9 ISBN-10 1-55729-105-5

"Corporal punishment of children by teachers and coaches is a widespread practice in many countries, but especially in Japan, where it has become a front-page issue involving Olympic athletes. Miller explores this issue both historically and in contemporary practices and analyzes how various discourses regarding disciplinary actions have shaped Japanese understandings of their 'educational reality.' To understand this phenomenon, Miller rejects Ruth Benedict's culturalist theory and, instead, places physical discipline (taibatsu) in the context of Michel Foucault's theory of violence and power, offering an incisive analysis of a complex issue."
              —Harumi Befu, professor emeritus, Stanford University

"An intriguing and well-written analysis on molding character in Japanese schools and sports through the widespread use of corporal punishment. Miller frames his discussion in the contexts of Japanese cultural ideals about discipline, toughness, and self-improvement, as well as in Japanese perceptions of such forms of discipline as something uniquely Japanese. This book is an important contribution to understanding the social and cultural dynamics of core institutions in contemporary Japan."
              —Theodore C. Bestor, Harvard University

"Corporal punishment as a discipline of pain and an abuse of adult authority is a troubling presence in Japanese classrooms and sports fields. This is an insightful and wide-ranging analysis that overturns simple judgments with a nuanced exploration of the historical development, sociocultural locations, and heated national discourse on corporal punishment in modern Japan. It is a significant contribution to our understanding of Japanese education and sports, and it is an original anthropological perspective on how we might theorize power in Japanese society."
              —William W. Kelly, Yale University


Introduction – 1
    Three Stories of Taibatsu
    What Is Taibatsu?
    Why We Should Study Taibatsu in Japanese Schools and Sports
    Thesis and Chapter Summaries

1. Anthropology and Corporal Punishment – 31
    Corporal Punishment (Research) Today
    How Anthropology Can Help Us Better Understand Corporal Punishment

2. Histories – 47
    "Taibatsu" Before the Term "Taibatsu" Existed
    Prewar Legal Prohibitions of Taibatsu
    Postwar Legal Prohibitions of Taibatsu
    The Postwar Construction of Taibatsu as "Solution," "Problem," and "Non-Issue"

3. Contexts – 82
    The Importance of Context
    The Forms of Discipline
    The Genders of Discipline
    The Spaces of Discipline
    The Inflictors of Discipline
    The "Languages" of Discipline

4. Ethics – 98
    Conflicting Sports and Classroom Pedagogies
    Arguments of Right and Wrong
    Arguments in Favor
    Arguments Against

5. Purported Causes and Plural Cultures – 125
    Causal Interpretations of Corporal Punishment Worldwide
    Structural "Causes" of Taibatsu in Japanese Schools and Sports
    Cultural "Causes" of Taibatsu in Japanese Schools and Sports
    Beyond Culturalism

6. Discourses of Power and the Power of Discourse – 154
    The Importance of Historical and Cross-Cultural Analysis
    Theories of Power, Violence, and the Body
    Silence, Words, and Actions: How Discourses of Discipline Are "Powerful" in Their Own Right

Epilogue – 164
    Beyond the "Violent Culture" Myth

Appendices – 171

Bibliography – 203

Index – 235

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