Seditious obscenity/obscene seditions: The radical eroticism of Umehara Hokumei

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


From the post-earthquake publishing boom of the 1920s to the crackdowns of the early 1930s associated with the Manchurian Incident, erotic and proletarian literatures flourished in Japan despite redoubled efforts of censors to suppress their supposedly obscene and seditious material. Rather than being immobilized during this high period of state control of public discourse, some writers, editors, and publishers were able to manipulate censorship to make money and cultivate marginal literary forms, thereby achieving fame and notoriety. Mentioning this productive role of censorship should not diminish the force of the censors and the harshness of the increasingly severe punishments they meted out - the confiscations and destructions of valuable stocks of banned books, the dissolving of the capital investments of publishers and printers alike, the severe fines on producers of banned material, the lengthy prison terms, and the surveillance and torture of members of the literati. Nevertheless, recognizing the productive capabilities of censorship enables us to gauge the violence of the censors against the force of discourse and dissemination of/by the censored, displacing solely topdown visions of power and hierarchical notions of the locus of censorial authority in a society. Acknowledging the productive power of censorship also reminds us that whether offense-giving is an act of resistance or complicity depends less on the categories for and content of offense than on the context of the act. For a brief moment in the late 1920s in Japan when crimes against mores and social order were equally declared by censors, giving offense through publication of material under either of these categories was necessarily an act of resistance - albeit one quickly contained by the increasing enforcement of regulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationNegotiating Censorship in Modern Japan
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781135069827
ISBN (Print)9780415520782
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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