The chimera of privacy: Reading self-discipline in Japanese diaries from the Second World War (1937-1945)

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Abstract

This article has two main goals for its examination of wartime diaries: (1) to argue against the idea that a diary's reliability is directly related to the degree of privacy that its author enjoyed, and (2) to suggest an alternate use for these texts by scholars-namely, the construction of the author's concept of self through acts of self-discipline. The article briefly outlines military diary writing and reportage in modern Japan, showing how fact and truth came to be understood in diaries. Through an examination of published and manuscript diaries, the article addresses theoretical premises such as intended audience, private language, and the nature of privacy itself. Finally, the article provides an alternative reading of diaries: The texts represent the author's attempt to construct a compelling and coherent subject position. Because diarists are involved in the construction of their identities, the article suggests that scholars use diaries to move beyond examinations of subjectivity solely reliant on disciplinary institutions. © 2009 The Association for Asian Studies, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-198
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Asian Studies
Volume68
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009

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