Theses Doctoral

Coed Revolution: The Female Student in the Japanese New Left, 1957-1972

Schieder, Chelsea Szendi

Violent events involving female students symbolized the rise and fall of the New Left in Japan, from the death of Kanba Michiko in a mass demonstration of 1960 to the 1972 deaths ordered by Nagata Hiroko in a sectarian purge. This study traces how shifting definitions of violence associated with the student movement map onto changes in popular representations of the female student activist, with broad implications for the role women could play in postwar politics and society.
In considering how gender and violence figured in the formation and dissolution of the New Left in Japan, I trace three phases of the postwar Japanese student movement. The first (1957-1960), which I treat in chapters one and two, was one of idealism, witnessing the emergence of the New Left in 1957 and, within only a few years, some of its largest public demonstrations. Young women became new political actors in the postwar period, their enfranchisement commonly represented as a break from and a bulwark against "male" wartime violence. Chapter two traces the processes by which Kanba Michiko became an icon of New Left sacrifice and the fragility of postwar democracy. It introduces Kanba's own writings to underscore the ironic discrepancy between her public significance as a "maiden sacrifice" and her personal relationship to radical politics.
A phase of backlash (1960-1967) followed the explosive rise of Japan's New Left. Chapter three introduces some key tabloid debates that suggested female presence in social institutions such as universities held the potential to "ruin the nation." The powerful influence of these frequently sarcastic but damaging debates, echoed in government policies re-linking young women to domestic labor, confirmed mass media's importance in interpreting the social role of the female student. Although the student movement imagined itself as immune to the logic of the state and the mass media, the practices of the late-1960s campus-based student movement, examined in chapter four, illustrate how larger societal assumptions about gender roles undergirded the gendered hierarchy of labor that emerged in the barricades.
The final phase (1969-1972) of the student New Left was dominated by two imaginary rather than real female figures, and is best emblematized by the notion of "Gewalt." I use the German term for violence, Gewalt, because of its peculiar resonances within the student movement of the late 1960s. Japanese students employed a transliteration--gebaruto--to distinguish their "counter-violence" from the violence employed by the state. However, the mass media soon picked up on the term and reversed its polarities in order to disparage the students' actions. It was in this late-1960s moment that women, once considered particularly vulnerable to violence, became deeply associated with active incitement to violence. I explore this dynamic, and the New Left's culture of masculinity, in chapters five and six.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for Schieder_columbia_0054D_12259.pdf Schieder_columbia_0054D_12259.pdf binary/octet-stream 7.83 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
East Asian Languages and Cultures
Thesis Advisors
Pflugfelder, Gregory M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 15, 2014