Department of Asian Studies
Department of Asian Studies

"Blossoming Opportunities: Women and Ikebana in Postwar Japan"

A talk by Asian Studies faculty member Nancy Stalker

Fri, March 22, 2013 | GAR 4.100

12:00 PM - 2:00 PM

Few societies take as much pride as the Japanese in a reputation for a refined aesthetic in appreciating and cultivating nature.  Ikebana, a discipline focused on the manipulation of flowers and plant material for decorative and artistic purpose, is a major aspect of this reputation.  With over ten million students at its peak in the 1960s, and more than three thousand officially registered schools, ikebana was (and remains) one of the nation’s largest cultural industries.  Like nearly all of Japan's traditional arts, ikebana began as a wholly male pursuit, an arena to demonstrate wealth and cultural capital. Early twentieth century educational reforms, highly conscious of the Western gaze, made ikebana part of girls' school curriculum, resulting in a complete reversal of the gender ratio.  While men continued to dominate the positions of ikebana headmasters and senior teachers, opportunities for women's labor and leisure increased steadily, spiking in the postwar period. This presentation examines growth, competition, and transformation among the three leading schools of ikebana.  It interrogates how these organizations shifted flexibly in response to emerging trends in art, market competition and women's changing lifestyles. 


Professor Stalker’s scholarship examines the relationship between cultural and religious practice and national identity in modern Japan. Her first book, on new religious movements in the 1920s-30s, is entitled Prophet Motive: Deguchi Onisaburo, Oomoto and the Rise of New Religions in Imperial Japan. Her next monographic project will examine the role of ikebana, the art of flower arrangement, in constructing national and international Japanese identity in the twentieth century, especially focusing on its rapid expansion in postwar Japan from the 1950s-70s. Other research interests include the conception of traditional Japanese cuisine and gender ideology.

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