A Samurai Wife Divorces Her Lout of a Husband

Tue February 25th 2020, 4:30 - 6:00pm
Event Sponsor
Center for East Asian Studies, History Department
East Asia (Lathrop) Library, Room 224, 518 Memorial Way
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A Samurai Wife Divorces Her Lout of a Husband

Speaker: Luke Roberts

Mori Nao, a young samurai wife of Tosa domain, desired a divorce from her abusive husband in 1824.  Legally a man could divorce his wife but a wife could not divorce her husband. Nevertheless, she persisted in the face of his adamant refusal to divorce her.  Soon her relatives mobilized their social networks to convince his relatives to pressure him to give her a divorce. He still refused and they put him in a cage in the garden to try to persuade him. Eventually most samurai of the domain were working to get her a divorce that she had no legal right to demand, and finally the husband divorced her. He ended up being punished and disinherited, likely for asserting his legal right. A detailed record of the process made by one relative of his house who played importantly in the negotiations reveals much about gender roles, family networks and the standard disjunctures between law as it was written and how it actually operated.

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About the speaker:

Luke Roberts is professor of Japanese history at UCSB where he has worked since 1991 and specializes in the Tokugawa era.  He has an interest in political culture and uses methodologies of local history and microhistory, most often working on the domain of Tosa in southwestern Japan.  Currently he is writing a biography of an eighteenth century samurai of that domain and is exploring issues of family, gender and work and social networks, and as part of this he has been researching and writing about samurai women.

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