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The Evolution of Ukiyo-e: Understanding the Sociohistorical Advancement of Japanese Women Since the Edo Period

Author: Cady Gibbs Faculty Mentor: Amy M. Young Director: Brian H. Kyser The Honors College Lone Star College 20515 TX-249 S Houston, TX 77070

The ukiyo-e art medium has existed in Japan since the seventeenth century, celebrating cherished aspects of Japanese culture and depicting the daily lifestyles of the upper and middle classes. This research examines the visibility of Japanese women’s sociological advancements – since the close of Japan’s Edo period (c. 1603-1868) – in the ukiyo-e medium. In the centuries following the Edo period, Japan underwent major sociopolitical and economic changes as the Edo’s Tokugawa Shogunate collapsed and global pressures for modernization rose during the Meiji Restoration. Japanese scholar, Shinichi Yamamoto, marks this transition as the beginning of Japanese women’s rise in prestige and social status, prompted by the Meiji’s introduction of women’s formal education. Further analysis of institutional changes in Japan’s educational, cultural, and legislative systems between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries, reveals the continuation of the socioeconomic progress of Japanese women within the nation’s political and economic sectors. To better understand how these changes influence societal perceptions of women and women’s roles, formal analysis of two ukiyo-e prints – Kitagawa Utamaro’s Women Making Dresses (c. 1793) and Haruyo Morita’s Koibumi (2014) – was conducted. Comparative analysis of the themes unveiled in the prints delineate a clear shift in Japanese cultural ideology. The Edo period’s focus on patriarchal idealism and the sexualization of women shifted in the twenty-first century ukiyo-e print to themes of individualism and conservative femininity among its women subjects. Intertwining both historical analysis of Edo and post-Edo Japan with formal analysis of Edo and modern ukiyo-e, we can outline the relation of female sociological advancement to evolving cultural and national ideology surrounding women. Ukiyo-e’s reflection of this evolution establishes the medium’s ability to depict and preserve centuries of abstract ideological and social change within Japan.




Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Cady Gibbs

Institution: Lone Star College System The Honors College

Type: Poster

Subject: Interdisciplinary Studies

Status: Approved


Time and Location

Session: Poster 8
Date/Time: Tue 5:00pm-6:00pm
Session Number: 5504