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Ruth Benedict's Legacy of Shame: Orientalism and Occidentalism in the Study of Japan

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Ruth F. Benedict's The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (1946) remains perhaps the most influential English-language book on contemporary Japanese society and culture. The Chrysanthemum and the Sword has generated a large critical literature and has sold over 1.4 million copies in Japan. It would not be an exaggeration to state that Benedict's book framed both American and Japanese - and, by extension, global - perceptions of Japan since the end of World War II. In this paper, I explore why her work found such resonance among the Japanese themselves to the extent that The Chrysanthemum and the Sword became something of an ur-text of the post-World War II Japanese discourse on the Japanese and on Japanese culture (Nihonjinron or Nihonbunkaron).

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology Universty of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


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