Japanese Historic “Timescapes”: An Anthropological Approach

In: KronoScope
Brigitte Steger Japanese Studies, University of Cambridge

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In this article, I propose a methodology to investigate “timescapes” in Japanese history from an anthropological perspective by analyzing historical sources on social activities, more specifically on sleeping and napping. Such an analysis provides the methodological basis for a research project on premodern Japanese “timescapes” at the University of Cambridge. Rather than studying the social use of the clock to investigate the extent to which various time structures have penetrated people’s private lives, I approach these questions by paying attention to how sleep and other social activities have been organized on a socio-temporal level—in other words, how people have been “doing time.” I argue that this focus makes abstract notions of time tangible. Issues discussed are time-use priorities, time measurement, appropriateness of performing certain tasks at specific times, regulating time as a tool of power, disciplining bodies through scheduling and early rising, as well as monochronic and polychronic time use.

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