Fabricating Consumers: The Sewing Machine in Modern Japan PDF by Andrew Gordon


Fabricating Consumers: The Sewing Machine in Modern Japan
By Andrew Gordon
Fabricating consumers the sewing machine in modern Japan


List of Illustrations vii
Preface xi
Introduction C
|. Meiji Machines CE
}. The AmericanWay of Selling EB
~. Selling and Consuming Modern Life GI
. Resisting Yankee Capitalism KC
.brt .wp: .fwjoh .pefrojty jo .br boe .fbdf
€. War Machines at Home CCK
. Mechanical Phoenix CGC
.. A Nation of Dressmakers CJH
Conclusion DCG
Appendix: Some Notes on Time-Use Studies DDG
Notes DDK
Select Bibliography DHC
Index DIC

Over the past decade, I have been working on this history of the selling, buying, and using of the household sewing machine in Japan. As I pursued this project, I was impressed to learn in conversations with numerous friends and colleagues how common it had been to own a Singer sewing machine, at least for middle-class city-dwellers in Japan of the |.~{s or later, the generation of my colleagues’ parents.And as I began to present preliminary thoughts and results of my research to academic and broader public audiences, I was further impressed by the emotional resonance the sewing machine held for so many.1

One colleague, for example,wrote in a letter after he heard me speak, “Listening to your talk the other night, I felt as if I was hearing my own history. . . .My mother supplemented the family income as a dressmaker. Shemade clothes on order fromneighbors or acquaintances and also sold through a local retail clothing store. . . . If I am permitted to exaggerate slightly, the sewing machine is an object that links to memories of my mother a bit like the sled ‘Rosebud’ in the film Citizen Kane.”2 Another colleague—I cannot recall who it was—came up to me after a talk and said that, influenced subconsciously, he was sure, by knowledge of my upcoming talk, the previous night he had dreamed of his deceased mother sitting at her sewing machine. In more than twenty years of writing and speaking on the history of (mainly male) industrial workers,

I received no such emotionally linked reactions. I began to realize this was a topic worth pursuing seriously in part because of the long-lived meanings the sewingmachine held not only for those who used it but also for themembers of their families.My initial impression was that in a gender- divided landscape of memory, the sewing machine was of particular resonance for the sons of sewing mothers, but this proved incorrect. The breakdown of reactions simply reflected the fact that the majority of academics in Japan, and thus most of those in the audience at talks, are men.

The sewing machine certainly carried great meaning for women as well as for men, both those who used it and those who watched their family members do so. I want to thank all those who have shared these recollections withme over the years, as well as those who offered advice, research assistance, or financial support for this project.

• • •

I much appreciate the feedback from audiences over the years in talks at DOshisha University,HOsei University,Hokkaido University,Hitotsubashi University, Kyoto University, Kokugakuin University, Kobe University,
Kansai University, ShOwaWomen’s University,Tachibana University, and Tokyo University in Japan, aswell as Columbia,Duke,Harvard, the London School of Economics, Stanford,Oxford, andYale in the United States and Britain.

The Area Studies Faculty at Tokyo University’s Komaba Campus and the Institute for Social Science at theHongo Campus served as hospitable and lively home bases for a year of research in }{{}–{~, and I am most grateful to my hosts there,Mitani Hiroshi at Komaba, and NittaMichio at the Institute of Social Science.3Over the years I benefited fromresearch grants from the Asia Center and Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard, and the Lee and Juliet Folger Family Fund. A fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute in the year }{{.–. was invaluable in giving me the time and the support of a stimulating intellectual community to allow me to pull my ideas together in book form. I am grateful to the members of our Radcliffe Institute writing group, Catherine Lutz, Timothy Rood, and Frances Kissling for incisive comments on early chapters, and to Sheldon Garon and Sarah A. Gordon for careful readings and feedback on the penultimate draft. I owe special thanks to Andrew Godley for comments on various draft chapters and for his help in understanding Singer’s business records.

For comments and advice in discussions over the years, I also thank Barbara Burman, Penelope Francks, Carol Gluck, Hirota Masaki, Janet Hunter,Geoffrey Jones,KamiyaAkiyoshi, KimuraKenji, KobayashiNorio, KoizumiKazuko, IanMiller, NakamuraNaofumi,NaritaRy[ichi,Ohmaki Kunichika, Suzuki Jun, KärenWigen,AnnWaswo, and Yoshimi Shunya.

For help in finding and offering access to documents, I am grateful to Abe Kenji of the Nihon Mishin Times, the staff at the Edo-Tokyo Museum and the Nature and Science Museum of the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. For advice on comparative time-study data, thanks to Herrick Chapman, Nancy Cott, Jonathan Gershuny, Maya Jasanoff, and Mary Lewis. Not all the world’s information is yet available via keyword searches of the Internet or databases, and Iwish to thank several research assistants for tremendous help in scouring various sources to discover references to sewing or sewing machines at libraries in Tokyo and Cambridge—in some cases the old-fashioned way, page by page: June Hwang,Matsuda Haruka, Song Byongkwon, ToyodaMaho, Jennifer Yum. Jeremy Yellen worked long and hard tracking down illustrations and securing permissions. I am grateful toMargot Chamberlain for help in preparing themanuscript in the final stages, to ReedMalcolm, Kalicia Pivirotto, and Jacqueline Volin of the University of California

Press for shepherding the manuscript into its book form, and to series editors Hue-Tam Tai, Jeffrey Wasserstrom, and Kären Wigen for their support. My family, in particular my wife Yoshie, offered precious support as well as diversion from the obsessive nature of my academic pursuits. For this I am deeply grateful. Finally, of course, I remain responsible for any errors of omission or commission.

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