Symbolic Freedoms: Physical and Structural Violence Toward Christianity Through Peace and Conflict Within Japan, 1549-1952

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Robert PROVERB , The New School for Social Research, Brooklyn, NY
The history of Christianity in Japan has been fraught with tumult since the religion’s formal arrival in the 16th century.  In order to properly assess the degree to which both structural and explicit violence against Christianity became immanent in the sociopolitical landscape of Japan since its introduction, this paper provides a theoretical examination of scholarly literature regarding several historical periods of note through a chronological “grand narrative” structure.  It is necessary to take into account the political climate surrounding the repression of Christianity during each of the eras mentioned in this text.  For in Japan, if there indeed lies a pattern of immanent quality in the violence toward Christianity across these eras, then as Etienne Balibar states, we witness a “systematic use of violence to prevent collective movements of emancipation that aim at transforming the structures of domination.”  The evidence examined is thereby directed toward the question of violence toward Christians as an institution or a matter of political expediency immediate to each circumstance up to the end of the proscription in 1873, with additional considerations of the subsequent years until the postwar Allied Occupation.

The derived conclusion is that the multiplicity of factors behind the violence at each stage of history elucidates certain specific goals for achieving power on behalf of the oppressor in each case, and not general qualities of the Christian faith being targeted.  Thus, the continued repression of Japanese Christians is seen to be a bias of political convenience rather than ideological conviction.