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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