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CJS Noon Lecture Series: Infanticide and a Demographic Revolution in Tokugawa Japan

Thursday, October 23, 2014
4:00 AM
Room 1636, School of Social Work Building

Fabian Drixler (PhD Harvard 2008) is Associate Professor of History at Yale.


Around 1790, Eastern Japan's culture of reproductive restraint and responsible parenting came under attack amid a deepening depopulation crisis. Previously, many of its inhabitants believed that they had to choose which children to raise and which to discard at birth, and infanticides were so frequent (40% of all births) that every generation was smaller than the one that went before it. The fight against infanticide, motivated in no small part by this depopulation, became a central concern of the public conversation, and had many successes to celebrate. The number of children, for one, increased from about three per woman in the 18th century to about six in 1920. In this talk, I will outline the contours of this reverse fertility transition and discuss the changing metaphors and images, political concerns and understandings of the world that made infanticide normal and normative in one century, and a dehumanizing crime in another. I would also be delighted to think with you about whether this journey from low fertility to high matters for how we view demographic change in other societies, past, present, and future.

Fabian Drixler, Associate Professor, History, Yale University