Active Pursuit of Pregnancy

Neoliberalism, Postfeminism and the Politics of Reproduction in Contemporary Japan


What is ninkatsu? Who promotes and governs this “active pursuit of pregnancy?” Trying to answer these questions, this unprecedented publication exhibits how mass media, policymakers, and biomedical science-corporate capitalism govern the individual’s reproductive choices in contemporary Japan through gendered discourses of self-improvement, life planning, and biomedical technology. Analyzing a broad range of media, popular science, and government material, it links historical and social processes with an original theoretical framework on self-governance, neoliberalism, and postfeminism. While deeply engaging with Japanese sources, this rich scholarship takes the study of reproductive politics beyond Japan. This book is not only of interest for Japanese studies scholars but more broadly also those curious about neoliberal government strategies, gender, and biomedical capitalism.

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Isabel Fassbender received her Ph.D. from Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (2020) and is currently an Assistant Professor at the Department of International Studies at Doshisha Women’s College in Kyoto. Her research field is Japanese studies, focusing on gender, family sociology, and governmentality.

List of Figures

1Introduction: The Politics of Reproduction in Contemporary Japan
 1 Literature Review

 2 Research Design

 3 Corpus of Analysis

 4 Structure of the Book

part 1
Theoretical Framework and Historical Background
2The “Reproductive Entrepreneur”  Theorizing Neoliberal Politics of Reproduction
 1 The Entrepreneurial Self

 2 Biomedicalization, Experts and Scientific Knowledge

 3 The “Entrepreneurial Self” within the “Culture of Uncertainty” in Contemporary Japan

 4 The “Reproductive Entrepreneur” in the Network of Technologies of the Self, Biomedicalization and Postfeminist Healthism

3Women’s Bodies as Battlefields  From “Beget and Multiply” to the “Active Pursuit of Pregnancy”
 1 Women’s Bodies and State Politics: From “Beget and Multiply” to “Family Planning”

 2 Women Claiming Back Their Bodies: The Women’s Health Movement

 3 Politics of Reproduction and the Low Birth Rate Crisis in Japan

 4 Gender Backlash and Sex Education

 5 Assisted Reproductive Technology and Adoption in Contemporary Japan

 6 Japan as a “Reproductive Gap Society”?

part 2
“Active Pursuit of Pregnancy” in Contemporary Japan
4Mass Media and Postfeminist Politics of Reproduction  “Reproductive Entrepreneurship” and Ninkatsu
 1 The “Active Pursuit of Pregnancy” Appears on Stage

 2 Marketing the “Active Pursuit of Pregnancy”

 3 The “Active Pursuit of Pregnancy” in Newspapers

 4 The Fantasy of the “Reproductive Entrepreneur”: From Family Planning to Ninkatsu?

5The Politics of Science in the Discourse of “Ageing Reproductive Cells”  The Gaze of Technology, Happiness and the “Fear of Regret”
 1  Close-Up Present’s “Unfulfilled Desire to Have Children” – The Shock of Ageing Egg Cells

 2 Governing the Soul: “Ovarian Ageing” in the Matrix of “Happiness” and “Regret”

 3 A Remedy for the “Fear of Regret”? A Woman’s “Life Game” and Social Freezing in Japan

 4 The Contemporary “Sperm Crisis”, the “Fear of Emasculation” and the “Molecular Gaze”

 5 Gender, Technology and the “Politics of Science” in Discourses on Ageing Reproductive Cells

6Neoliberal State Politics of Reproduction  “Correct Knowledge” and Life Planning as Pronatalist Strategy
 1 “Correct Knowledge” and Life Planning as Government Strategy in the Context of the Low Birth Rate: An Overview

 2 Educating the “Reproductive Entrepreneur”: Choices and Life Planning

 3 The Stork Is Back: Infertility Treatment over Contraception in Sex Education

 4 “A Healthy Life” and Dwindling Egg Reservoirs

 5 From “Beget and Multiply” to the Strategy of Knowledge Promotion and Life Planning

7Conclusion: Politics of Reproduction in Contemporary Japan
 1 Governing the Population: From “Beget and Multiply” to Life Planning

 2 Using Technology and Science to Protect the “Normal” Social Order

 3 (Self-)Governing Body and Soul: Postfeminist Healthism, “Happiness” and “Regret”

 4 Concluding Remarks




Libraries, institutes, and (post-graduate) students interested in Japan, gender theories, neoliberal government and feminism. More broadly, those involved with media studies, governmentality studies, gender and women’s studies, health research, and sociology.