The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 5 | Issue 7 | Jul 03, 2007 1 Ruth Benedict's Obituary for Japanese Culture C. Douglas Lummis Ruth Benedict's Obituary for Japanese Culture C. Douglas Lummis Preface I first found Ruth Benedict’s The Chrysanthemum and the Sword in the Charles Tuttle Bookstore in Okinawa in 1960. I had just decided to spend some time living in Japan (little suspecting that “some time” would turn out to be a big part of the rest of my life) and I was delighted to discover that Benedict, whose Patterns of Culture I greatly admired, had written this book too. I read it avidly, and for some years was corrupted by the myth of (as Malinowski called it) the “ethnographer’s magic”. I walked around Japan like a miniature Benedict, seeing “patterns” everywhere, and thinking it was wonderfully clever to be able to “analyze” the behavior of the people around me, including even invitations to dialogue and expressions of friendship. I claim no monopoly to this kind of attitude; in those days it was rampant within the community of Westerners in Japan, and especially among the Americans, so many of whom saw themselves not only as miniature Benedicts, but also as miniature MacArthurs (some still do today). After some time I realized that I would never be able to live in a decent relationship with the people of that country unless I could drive this book, and its politely arrogant world view, out of my head. The method I chose was to begin the research that led to the following essay. The original version of “Ruth Benedict’s Obituary for Japan” was serialized in the journal Shiso no Kagaku (Science of Thought) in 1980, and then appeared as part two of my book Uchi Naru Gaikoku (The Abroad Within) (Jiji Tsushinsha, 1981). In English it was published in the form of an annotated textbook for Japanese college students, under the title Rethinking the Chrysanthemum and the Sword (Ikeda Masayuki, ed. Shohakusha, 1982). Looking back on it now, I think this essay can be considered as a fairly early study of what is now called the critique of orientalism, though at the time I wrote it I did not know the term, and was blithely ignorant of Edward Said’s then-recently-published book of that title. At the same time, it can also be seen as an, again fairly early, example of post-colonial studies (early because the term had not yet been coined). (Or if there are those who object to using the word “colonial” in relation to Japan, shall we call it “post-occupational studies?”) But while the essay got some attention in Japan, it has pretty much remained unknown outside the country. In 1996 I was granted a sabbatical leave by Tsuda College where I was teaching then (Thanks, Tsuda College!) and I decided to use it to fill in some of the research gaps in the essay, and to rewrite it in a longer version. I had not, for example, yet had the opportunity to visit Vassar College Special Collections, where the Benedict papers are. When I finally managed to get there, I made two major discoveries. One was Benedict’s “country report” on Germany. Benedict wrote this at about the same time she was doing her research on Japan, but the two works could not be more different. In Germany, Nazism is a recently cobbled together ideology; in Japan, totalitarian militarism is – just Japan.
The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 5 | Issue 7 | Jul 03, 2007
Ruth Benedict's Obituary for Japanese Culture
C. Douglas Lummis
Ruth Benedict's Obituary for JapaneseCulture
C. Douglas Lummis
I f i r s t f o u n d R u t h B e n e d i c t ’ s T h eChrysanthemum and the Sword in the CharlesTuttle Bookstore in Okinawa in 1960. I had justdecided to spend some time living in Japan(little suspecting that “some time” would turnout to be a big part of the rest of my life) and Iwas delighted to discover that Benedict, whosePatterns of Culture I greatly admired, hadwritten this book too. I read it avidly, and forsome years was corrupted by the myth of (asMalinowski called it) the “ethnographer’smagic”. I walked around Japan like a miniatureBenedict, seeing “patterns” everywhere, andthinking it was wonderfully clever to be able to“analyze” the behavior of the people aroundme, including even invitations to dialogue andexpressions of friendship. I claim no monopolyto this kind of attitude; in those days it wasrampant within the community of Westerners inJapan, and especially among the Americans, somany of whom saw themselves not only asminiature Benedicts, but also as miniatureMacArthurs (some still do today). After sometime I realized that I would never be able tolive in a decent relationship with the people ofthat country unless I could drive this book, andits politely arrogant world view, out of myhead. The method I chose was to begin theresearch that led to the following essay.
The original version of “Ruth Benedict’sObituary for Japan” was serialized in the
journal Shiso no Kagaku (Science of Thought)in 1980, and then appeared as part two of mybook Uchi Naru Gaikoku (The Abroad Within)(Jiji Tsushinsha, 1981). In English it waspublished in the form of an annotated textbookfor Japanese college students, under the titleRethinking the Chrysanthemum and the Sword(Ikeda Masayuki, ed. Shohakusha, 1982).
Looking back on it now, I think this essay canbe considered as a fairly early study of what isnow called the critique of orientalism, thoughat the time I wrote it I did not know the term,and was blithely ignorant of Edward Said’sthen-recently-published book of that title. Atthe same time, it can also be seen as an, againfairly early, example of post-colonial studies(early because the term had not yet beencoined). (Or if there are those who object tousing the word “colonial” in relation to Japan,shall we call it “post-occupational studies?”)But while the essay got some attention inJapan, it has pretty much remained unknownoutside the country.
In 1996 I was granted a sabbatical leave byTsuda College where I was teaching then(Thanks, Tsuda College!) and I decided to use itto fill in some of the research gaps in the essay,and to rewrite it in a longer version. I had not,for example, yet had the opportunity to visitVassar College Special Collections, where theBenedict papers are. When I finally managed toget there, I made two major discoveries. Onewas Benedict’s “country report” on Germany.Benedict wrote this at about the same time shewas doing her research on Japan, but the twoworks could not be more different. In Germany,Nazism is a recently cobbled together ideology;in Japan, totalitarian militarism is – just Japan.
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The other discovery was Benedict’s notes takenfrom her interviews with Robert Hashima, inwhich the insights that make up the core of TheChrysanthemum and the Sword are to befound.
After I found the Hashima notes I mentionedthem in an interview with the Asahi Shinbun,and shortly after someone cal led thenewspaper and said, “That’s my uncle! He’swell and living in Tokyo.” And that’s how I wasable to meet that remarkable man and do twointerviews with him. Even people who utterlydisagree with the rest of my argument will, Ibelieve, find in the Hashima notes andinterviews much that cannot be ignored byBenedict scholarship in the future.
Apologizing. Benedict's notes from the Hashimainterview. From Vassar College archives
On the basis of this new research I rewrote theessay and published it in Japanese as “Kiku toKatana Saikou – Paato II” (“Rethinking The
Chrysanthemum and the Sword – Part II” ) inKokuritsu Rekishi Minzoku HakubutsukanKenkyu Houkoku Dai 91 hen (Bulletin of theNational Museum of Japanese History #91,March, 2001). Then I had an offer to publish itin a book of essays on the work of RuthBenedict and Margaret Mead. I submitted it,but the editors saw fit to publish, not what Isent them, but a badly hacked up version that Isaw for the first time when I received the book.(“Ruth Benedict’s Obituary for Japan” inDolores Janiewsky and Lois Banner, eds.,Reading Benedict/Reading Mead: Feminism,Race, and Imperial Visions [Johns Hopkins,2005]) I advise readers who want to quote fromthis essay, assign it to students, or use it in anyother fashion not to use the version in the JohnsHopkins book, as that could lead to seriousmisunderstanding, but to use only the versionprinted here.
Ruth Benedict's The Chrysanthemum and theSword: Patterns of Japanese Culture (firstpublished in 1946) has long possessed analmost mysterious power to outlast its critics.Certainly this can partly be explained byBenedict’s remarkable writing skill. Set downin marvelously simple, elegant prose, organizedwith extraordinary clarity, illuminated withwonderfully told stories and brilliant images,the book seems a model of the way one wishessocial science could be written.
Moreover, given that the research was mainlydone during World War II and the bookpublished shortly after, it seems remarkablyliberal and tolerant. Perhaps it was the bestAmerican liberalism could have producedunder those circumstances. Neverthelessjudged by the criterion that matters most –whether it helps or hinders understanding ofJapanese culture – it is deeply flawed.
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The Chrysanthemum and the Sword
While the flaws in the book have been difficultfor many Western scholars to see, Japanesescholars including Tsurumi Kazuko, WatsujiTetsuro, and Yanagida Kunio publisheddevastating critiques of its inaccuracies andmethodological errors soon after the Japaneseedition was published. The criticisms thatBenedict took the ideology of a class for theculture of a people, a state of acute socialdislocation for a normal condition, and anextraordinary moment in a nation's history asan unvarying norm of social behavior, are bynow well known in Japanese scholarlycircles.(1)
In its tendency to treat Japan as an absoluteOther, and to explain the complexities of thisstate-run industrial society with a small numberof generalizations about its “culture”, The
Chrysanthemum and the Sword qualifies as aw o r k o f w h a t E d w a r d S a i d l a b e l e d“orientalism”. However, while Said analyzedWestern stereotypes as they appeared undert h e g a z e o f E u r o p e f a c i n g e a s t ,Chrysanthemum represents an orientalism as itappeared under the gaze of America facingwest. Its view of the Japanese as the “mostalien” of peoples, inscrutable to the “Western”mind until unlocked by the “ethnographer’smagic,” opposed to and incompatible with the“West,” had deep roots in the encounterbetween Asia and that section of Westerncivilization that reached the eastern shores ofthe Pacific Ocean in the late 19th Century. Butthe book must be located more specifically thanthat.
It was written on the occasion of the defeat ofJapan in World War II and its occupation by theUnited States, by a person who did theresearch for it while working for a governmentthat was working to bring about that defeat.Not only did it, unsurprisingly for the time,explain and justify the defeat and occupation, itwas also brilliantly effective in shifting theterms of Japan discourse from a wartime to apeacetime footing, specifically by substituting“culture” for “race” as the key concept to beused for criticizing and transforming Japan. Butif Chrysanthemum was very much a product ofits time, it was also deeply affected by thetheoretical stance, interests and obsessions ofits author, Ruth Benedict. Paradoxically, it wasalso greatly influenced by the official ideologyof wartime Japan, especially as communicatedto Benedict by her chief informant, RobertHashima. I discuss these influences below.
But first, something needs to be said about thenature and scale of the book’s influence. This isnot simply a matter of book sales, although it isimportant to note that in Japan some twomil l ion copies have been sold . Moreimportantly, it was a founding work for whatbecame mainstream postwar Japanology. Inpart icular, though the debt is rarely
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acknowledged, virtually the entire discourse ofthat branch of Japanese studies calledNihonjinron has been carried out within theframework established by Benedict’s book. Thedebate launched among Japanese scholars over“shame culture” vs. “guilt culture” spilled overinto lay society so that the two terms havebecome established as expressions in ordinaryJapanese language. Her book gave birth, inboth English-language and Japanese-languageJapan studies, to an endless supply of binary “xculture vs. y culture” tools for blunt-instrumentsocial analysis. Why, despite its errors of factand interpretation, has The Chrysanthemumand the Sword exerted such powerfulinfluence?
The answer, I believe, is that the book is useful.It is useful, however, not as an accurateaccount of Japanese society, but as a work ofpolitical literature. The same could be said ofother works of anthropology. Long beforeanthropology was invented, drawing detailedpictures of Another Country was a time-honored method of political theory, a method ofestablishing a "standpoint" from which one'sown society could be viewed in a differentperspective, thus enriching self-knowledge andmaking possible self-criticism (or self-praise).Plato's Republic, Aristotle's ideal polis, theRomans' mythologized image of Sparta,Augustine's City of God, Machiavelli 'smythologized image of Rome, More's Utopia,the countries Swift invented for Gulliver totravel to, Rousseau's State of Nature - all theseimages of Another Country served the functionof increasing the reader's awareness of theruling spirit, the underlying nature, thedominating principle, of the home country.
And to serve that function it is not necessarythat the Other Country be a real place. ForPlato and More, it is only necessary that theirideal republics be possible; for Rousseau, it isonly necessary that Natural Man be logical; forSwift, it is only necessary that his variouscountries be imaginable; for Augustine, whoseCity of God is unimaginable, it is only necessarythat it be utterable.
Political education has been one of the not-so-hidden intentions of many anthropologists fromthe beginning. Many anthropological workscontain overt or covert "lessons" the readerscan draw from anthropological knowledge ofother societies. The motivation may belaudable, but what has only recently begun to
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be noticed is that sometimes eagerness toeducate leads the researcher to arrange theculture to fit the lesson rather than to draw thelesson from the culture. To illustrate this pointone need only mention the scandal surroundingMargaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa, andthe charges that many of her conclusions werethe product of a hoax (her informants told herwhat they knew she wanted to hear), but thereare many other examples.
Margaret Mead between two Samoan girls,1926
Anyone who doubts Ruth Benedict's desire tobe a political educator need only read the lastchapter in Patterns of Culture. According toClifford Geertz, “To say one should readBenedict not with the likes of Gorer, Mead,Alexander Leighton, or Lawrence Frank at theback of one's mind, but rather with Swift,Montaigne, Veblen, and W.S. Gilbert, is to urgea particular understanding of what she issaying. The Chrysanthemum and the Sword isno more a prettied-up science-without-tears
policy tract than [Gulliver's Travels] is achildren's book.”(2)
Geertz skillfully analyzed The Chrysanthemumand the Sword as a piece of Swiftian satire, abook principally about U.S. society. This is animportant insight, one missed by mostcommentators. Certainly one of the reasons,generally unconscious, Americans tend to likethe book is for the flattering things it saysabout their country. But Japan, in addition tobeing the only country actually on the map thatLemuel Gulliver visited, was also a country inthe 20th century with which the U.S. wasengaged in a very intense relationship. And itwas what Benedict had to say about thatcountry that has been the most important.
The Chrysanthemum and the Sword establishedthe cultural paradigm for post-war U.S.-Japanrelations. It depicted/invented Japan as thecountry the most appropriate for the U.S. tohave defeated and occupied. And, of equalimportance, it depicted/invented the U.S. as thecountry the most appropriate to defeat andoccupy Japan. Thus Geertz is half right: thebook is as much "about" the U.S. as it is "about"Japan. It taught that for the Japanese, beingdefeated by the U.S. was quite the best thingthat could have happened, and that they shouldhave been - and in fact were - grateful for thisdefeat. Moreover, the defeat was no mereaccident of power, but had a kind of Hegeliannecessity: it was Japan's only hope of advancingto a state of freedom. According to Benedict,Japanese culture contained no concept or spiritof freedom, no principle of liberation – in fact,no principle at all. This is the meaning ofdescribing it as a "shame culture" where peopleact not according to principles, but ratheraccording to how they think they will look toothers, and whether they will be honored orshamed. In 1946 this was a convenientinterpretation, because it meant that Japan,having just been shamed before the world,would be willing to change itself by importingprinciples from outside, meaning from the
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principal conquering power, the U.S.
All this is written in a polite and tolerant tone.What matters, however, is the content.Benedict's judgment on Japan can be seen inher answer to the question: why did Japan fightthis war? Her answer makes no use ofeconomic or political explanations. Japan didnot follow the well-known logic of colonial andimperialist powers, seeking markets, resources,investment outlets and cheap labor. Nor didJapan follow the well-beaten path of tyranny,seeking power, glory, a central place in history.Nor had Japan (in contrast to Germany andItaly) passed over into an extraordinary state ofpolitical pathology: nowhere does she use theconcepts of fascism, totalitarianism, or anysimilar notion. To admit the relevance of any ofthese explanations would be to admit thatJapan's behavior was understandable accordingto ordinary "Western" reason – that it was yetanother rather extreme and badly-timedexample of plain, old-fashioned imperialism.Benedict was determined to show that Japan'sbehavior was utterly different from anythingknown in the "West", and understandable to"Wes terners " on ly by means o f her"ethnologist's magic", the anthropologicalmethod. The explanation for Japan's conduct ofthe war could only lie in "a cultural problem":the war was the inevitable expression ofJapanese culture itself.(3)
Militarist Japan was for her simply "Japan" -Japan as it had always been, and as it wouldcontinue to be unless changed from theoutside. In an earlier version of this essay, Iexpressed the belief that no one could havewritten the same things about Germany at thattime. This was an exaggeration: some critics ofNazism have tried to argue that it grewnecessarily out of German culture. Be that as itmay, this was not Benedict's view of Germany.Among her papers in the Vassar CollegeLibrary is a study of Germany which shesubmitted to the Office of War Information in1943, just at the time she was doing her
research on Japan. The contrast could not bemore striking. Basing her analysis of the stateof German “morale” on British surveys ofprisoners of war, Benedict argued that only thegeneration of men (presumably not women) intheir late twenties was solidly Nazi. "The Naziregime . . . has . . . failed to Nazify the agegroup now under 25 as it did the one now25-30. . . . " As for the older generation, “Thereis no need to discuss the relative non-Nazification of the generation over 30 since thegrounds for this are well understood. The factthat Hitler Regime [sic] has been of such shortduration that there remains a whole oldergeneration who grew up under a differentsocial order, is of great importance inestimating Germany's future.” In Benedict'sdiscussion of Japan there is no notion of a"failure of indoctrination" nor for that matter ofa successful one, no term equivalent to"Nazify", no suggestion that "a different socialorder" may have existed in the recent past;even the word "regime" does not appear. WhileGermany's Nazism was a fleeting phenomenonthat managed to attach itself to German cultureonly temporarily and precariously Japanesemilitarism was Japanese culture itself: It hadexisted essentially unchanged from ancienttimes, and far from being imposed throughindoctrination, had been "voluntarilyembraced".(4)
Was this difference in interpretation a result ofrace prejudice? While it is possible that racismplayed some role in the lower depths ofBenedict's consciousness, it played no rolewhatever in her theory. Ruth Benedict was adevoted campaigner against racism, andconsidered anthropology - and in particular hertheory of cultural patterns - to be the definitiverefutation of race theory. Moreover, racetheory no longer fit the times: while it wasappropriate to U.S. war propaganda when theJapanese were to be killed, it was inappropriateas an ideology for the postwar occupationunder which the Japanese were to be changed.Race theory asserts that behavior is
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determined by racial inheritance, and thereforethe subject lacks the ability to change.Benedict's work offers a prejudice appropriateto the period of occupation and reform (and,incidentally, appropriate to America's post-warprojects o f h igh-pressure economicdevelopment and other forms of humanitarianintervention elsewhere): cultural prejudice. TheChrysanthemum and the Sword told its readersthat Japanese culture must be changed andexplained how it could be changed, under theforce of the U.S. military occupation. Benedict'stheory of "patterns of culture" has been widelyregarded as a theory of tolerance. Perhaps insome cases, but not in this one: “In the UnitedStates we have argued endlessly about hardand soft peace terms. The real issue is notbetween hard and soft. The problem is to usethat amount of hardness, no more and no less,which will break up old and dangerous patternsof aggressiveness and set new goals.”(5,emphasis added).
As is well known, Ruth Benedict came toanthropology from English literature. Shegraduated from Vassar College in English,taught English at a girls school in California,and was a published poet all before she enteredthe Co lumbia graduate program inanthropology. That she received her Ph.D. inthree semesters not only testifies to herbrilliance, but also suggests that she did notundergo a fundamental retraining inmethodology. This is supported by her owntestimony, that "[l]ong before I knew anythingabout anthropology, I had learned fromShakespearean criticism . . . habits of mindwhich at length made me an anthropologist."According to Margaret Mead, Benedict wasable to transfer her sensibilities from literatureto anthropology by seeing "each primitiveculture . . . [as] . . . something comparable to agreat work of art" whose internal consistencyand intricacy was as aesthetically satisfying tothe would-be explorer as was any single workof art.(6)
Benedict (right) and Mead
In 1925 Benedict in a New Mexico village wrotein a letter to Mead in Samoa, "I want to find areally important undiscovered country."Interestingly, she was referring not toanthropology but to poetry. Benedict was adevoted poet, who published under the nameAnn Singleton; one can see how the lure of the"undiscovered country" could set the sameperson on both a poetic and an anthropologicaljourney. In Benedict's own account of herchildhood, she wrote that as far back as shecould remember she lived in two worlds, onethe world of her family and friends, in whichshe felt alienated and unhappy, and the otherof her imagination, where everything was calm,beautiful, and rightly ordered, and where shehad an imaginary playmate. "So far as I canremember I and the little girl mostly explored
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hand in hand the unparalleled beauty of thecountry over the hill."(7)
The meaning for her of this "country over thehill" is the main theme of her brief childhoodmemoir, entitled "The Story of my Life". Itopens with the remarkable sentence, "The storyof my life begins when I was twenty-onemonths old, at the time my father died."Though she did not remember that day herself,she was told later by a relative what hadhappened. Her mother “wanted desperately tohave me remember my father. She took me intothe room where he lay in his coffin, and in anhyster ia o f weeping implored me toremember.”
This scene was reproduced annually, Benedictremembers, for “[s]he made a cult of grief outof my father's death, and every March she weptin church and in bed at night. It always had thesame effect on me, an excruciating misery withphysical trembling of a peculiar involuntarykind which culminated periodically in rigiditylike an orgasm.” It was this experience, shesays, that divided her life into "two worlds",“the world of my father, which was the world ofdeath, and which was beautiful, and the worldof confusion and explosive weeping, which Irepudiated. I did not love my mother; Iresented her cult of grief, and her worry andconcern about little things. But I could alwaysretire to my other world, and to this world myfather belonged. I identified with himeverything calm and beautiful that came myway.”(8)
This fascination with the calmness and beautythat comes with death was not merely adaydream. Benedict wrote that as a child sheused to bury herself in the hay on the familyfarm and imagine she was in her grave. Whenshe was taken to a neighbor's house where ababy had died she found the corpse a thing of"transparent beauty . . . . the loveliest thing Ihad ever seen." The feeling stayed with her inadulthood. "Even now I feel I have been
cheated or unfaithful if I can't see the dead faceof a person I've loved. Sometimes they'redisappointments, but often not." This themebecame deeply embedded in the consciousnessof Ruth Benedict, and also in the poetry of AnnSingleton, who wrote such things as,
T h i s i s t h e s e a s o n w h e nimportunate rainsRutting the graves unearth slimskeletonsWe buried to corruption, andstrong windsWhip from the ocean where nopassing sunsStrike nethermost, the bones wewept beside.Now is the season of our mourningpastAnd reek forgotten, the whitelovelinessOf ivory ours to play with. Now atlastOur griefs are overspanned, decayplayed out,And noth ing dead but i t i sperfected.Come, of the bones we'll make usflutes and playOur hearts to happiness, whereworms have fed. (9)
Margaret Mead claimed that Benedict, at leastin her early work, kept her emotional life asexpressed in poetry separate from heranthropological work. The evidence, however,points in the other direction. According toMead herself , who decided to take upanthropology under Benedict's influence, thetask of American anthropology in those yearswas a "salvage task". Anthropologists collected“masses of vanishing materials from themembers of dying American Indian cultures . . .. " I t i s not d i f f icu l t to see how Ruth
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Benedict/Ann Singleton could be attracted tothis enterprise. How better than as ananthropologist could one make a career quietlyexploring the country over the hill andcontemplating the beauty of the dead, all underthe supervision of Boas, the man she came tocall "Papa Franz"? It is not difficult at all tohear the voice of Ann Singleton in this, perhapsBenedict's most famous, passage with whichPatterns of Culture begins. “One day, withouttransition, Ramon [Benedict's Diggerinformant] broke in upon his descriptions ofgrinding mesquite and preparing acorn soup.‘In the beginning,’ he said, ‘God gave to everypeople a cup, a cup of clay, and from this cupthey drank their life . . . . They all dipped in thewater . . . but their cups were different. Ourcup is broken now. It has passed away.’"(10)
In this situation, the task of the anthropologistwas, as Mead says she learned from Benedict,to "rescue the beautiful patterns", though not,of course, the survivors. And equally obviously,the patterns were not to be restored to livingform but only written down. Thus theanthropologist would move backward in time,beginning with the fragments of the shatteredcup - some missing, some badly worn - and tryto piece together both from evidence and fromsympathetic imagination the culture pattern asit must have once existed. The nativeinformants were not themselves livingexamples of this pattern. They were defectiveas evidence: fragments. What the researcherwanted from them was their memory. (11)
Benedict has been criticized for writing TheChrysanthemum and the Sword withoutlearning Japanese language or visiting thecountry, but that is the way she always haddone her anthropological research. "She neverhad the opportunity to participate in a livingculture where she could speak the languageand get to know the people well as individuals,"Mead remembered. “She never saw a wholeprimitive culture that was untroubled byboarding schools for the children, by missions
and public health nurses, by Indian Serviceagents, traders, and sentimental or exiled whitepeople. No living flesh-and-blood member of acoherent culture was present to obscure hervision or to make it too concrete . . . .”(12,emphasis added)
Remarkably, Mead saw this not as a handicap,but as a source of the peculiar strength of herwork. "The clarity of her concept," Meadcontinued, ". . . owed . . . much to the lack of asensory screen between the field worker andthe pattern and to her search for meaningwithin fragments . . . ." The "sensory screen"which might obscure her vision of the pure,clear patterns was of course actual members ofthe living culture. Benedict's field letters reflectan amused, patronizing attitude toward herinformants. From Zuni: "Nick and Flora botheat out of my hand this summer.” “As soon as Igo out for water the men begin to come in. Oneamorous male I have got rid of, dear soul. He'sstunning, with melting eyes and the perfectconfidence which I can't help believing hascome from a successful amour with a whitewoman." In Cochiti "stories aren't told nightafter night as they are in Zuni, and societiesand priesthoods are reduced to almost nothing.– And I pay so little here I can afford to take thetales as they come – only a dollar a three-hoursession." "My Black Flag arrived and the bedbugs are forced away from certain quarantinedareas." ". . . I'm in luck that my old shaman ispoor – otherwise he would be frowned on. Oneof those who rob the poor working girl, youknow!”(13)
Her response to the location, however, was ofan altogether different order. The day she leftZuni she wrote to Mead,
“Yesterday we went up under thesacred mesa along stunning trailswhere the great wall towers aboveyou always in new magnificence . .. . When I'm God I'm going to build
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my city there.”(14)
If as an anthropological field worker she wasforced to come face to face with a “world ofconfusion”, it was as an anthropological writerthat she had the power to be God, and todesign perfect cities, if only for the dead.
As an anthropological researcher RuthBenedict collected information about thecustoms, rituals, habits, ceremonies, myths,and other institutionalized activities that makeup a culture; as an anthropological artist shearranged them in vivid, dramatic, and intricatedetail, forming a coherent whole. Pattern washer fascination and her trademark.
Patterns of Culture
With that in mind the following entry in herjournal, probably written around 1915, is
startling. “All our ceremonies, our observances,are for the weak who are cowards before thebare thrust of feeling. How we have hung theimpert inent panop ly o f our funera larrangements over the bleak tragedy of death!And joy, too. What are our weddings, from thereligious pomp to the irrelevant presents andthe confetti, but presumptuous distractionsfrom the proud mating of urgent love?”(15)Ceremonies, observances, funerals, weddings -these are the very stuff of which culturalpatterns are made. One might dismiss this as ayouthful outburst were it not a constant themein her private writings, her journal entries andespecially her poetry. It is an attitude that wecan only describe as horror of pattern. What isa marvelous creature of human genius in thedaytime of her anthropology is a nightmare inthe nighttime of her poetry. The constantlyrecurring image in her poems is that of somesubstance that escapes patterning - breath,wind, mist, water - in contest with the forces ofrigidity.
Love that is water, love that is afloodComing and going, silvering theland,How shall we say of this, inductilewater,It shall be chiseled by the fragilesand?Water slips lightly, flawless, fromour confines,Shaped to no permanent feature,fluid as air;Though we stand hewing till thesword is eaten,There is no lineament we shallchisel there.(16)
In this poem a brave spirit of freedom seemsdominant, but if Benedict knew that watercould not be carved with a sword, she alsoknew what could be done to it by winter.
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Ice when it forms upon the brooksin autumnStills their swift feet that ran theyknew not where,Rendered in stone that were butdrops tossed seaward,Splintered to vapor down a rockystair..................................
It were enough that stone shouldlie quiescent,Stone never ran quicksilver in theshade,Stone never gathered out of dooma singing,Lost now, forgotten, and its dreambetrayed.(17)
The beauty of flowing water is tragedy itself.Not having the permanence of stone, the brookis doomed to flow away and lose itself in thesea. But because it faces this doom, it can sing.It is not grateful to the winter for transformingit into rigid crystal. Dull, patterned stability orjoyous, doomed freedom: it is a choice of howto live.
So I shall live, a raveling briefsmokeBefore the wind, and glut youreyes with brightness.Let be these words of a poorfoolish folk,Unused to ecstasy, who make ofripeness
Eternal durance, and a paradiseGot by the snakes upon Medusa'shead,Immutable now forever. It's a priceToo great for heaven, where howshould the shred
And filament of the air-stepping
mistBe lovely still, or hush itself to blueAgainst the wintry sky? 'Twerebest we kissedBefore the wind, and went assmoke clouds do.(18)
For a cultural patternist these are words ofrebellion: cultural institutions as prisons of thehuman spirit. Can a society be built on suchideas? Certainly not, which is why AnnSingleton was a poet, not an anthropologist.But that is a fact that can lead one to a bitterassessment of one's fellow human beings.
In another journal entry, Benedict wrote that inmodern society, “the majority are lost andastray unless the tune has been set for them,the key given them, the lever and the fulcrumput before them, the spring of their ownpersonalities touched from the outside.” Theentry concludes with an outburst of purerepugnance: "The stench of atrophiedpersonality." (19) The horror of pattern couldnot be more powerfully expressed. Is it possibleto reconcile these contradictory ideas? Perhapsnot. Perhaps Benedict's own inability to do sowas one of the reasons she wrote under twonames. Nevertheless one can make somesuggestions. On the one hand Benedictcherished the image of the beauty of death, onthe other she expressed a horror of atrophy.But atrophy is not death, it is sickly life, life soundernourished and underused that it isshrunken and decayed.
Culture patterns then carry a double meaning.When the culture is dead, its pattern has thesame beauty Benedict found in the faces ofdead people - the aesthetic closure ofsomething reconciled and finished. But for theliving, the patterns are a kind of death-in-life,an oppressive, imprisoning force. If the livingdo not struggle to liberate themselves fromthem they will never be fully alive. These"other-directed" ones, as David Reisman was to
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call them just a few years later, who live onlyby pattern and custom, have neither the beautyof death nor the joy of life: they are in a state oflife resembling death, a state of atrophy.
In her poetry and journal entries, Benedict wastalking about her compatriots. In heranthropological studies, since the cultureswere, in her view, safely dead, the diagnosis ofatrophy would not apply. It was only with TheChrysanthemum and the Sword that shetransferred this damning diagnosis to the“other country” and erstwhile enemy, shame-culture Japan, enabling her to describe her owncountry (using a Singletonian air-metaphor) asa land of "simple freedoms which Americanscount upon as unquestioningly as the air theybreathe."(20) From a Freudian standpoint thiscould be seen as a classic case of projection:just at the moment corporatized Americabegins to fear for its lost “individualism,”comfort is offered by arguing that it is thedefeated Japanese who are the people devoid of“inner direction“ (guilt).
Thus America’s historical situation as occupierof defeated Japan, its mid-20th Centuryconcern with “conformism”, and RuthBenedict’s ambivalent obsession with patterna l l w e n t i n t o t h e s h a p i n g o f T h eChrysanthemum and the Sword. Two othermajor factors remain to be discussed, one is theJapanese government’s pre-1945 ideology, andthe other is the peculiar reading of thatideology by Benedict’s chief informant.
It is common knowledge that after the MeijiRestoration the Japanese government laboredto remake Japanese society politically,economically, technologically, and culturally.Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger's TheInvention of Tradition included no analysis ofJapan, but surely Japan ought to be consideredas a paradigmatic case. The Meiji elites, usingcompulsory education, military conscription,institutional reorganization, and many otherforms of indoctrination and force, sought to
organize the various cultures of the Japaneseand Ryukyu Archipelagos – and later thecultures of Taiwan and Korea as well – into asingle nation-state under the direct rule of theTokyo government, the whole apparatusmystified under the newly-organized emperorsystem and legitimized by means of the"invented tradition" of a modernized version ofthe ethic of the old bushi class. This story hasbeen one of the chief objects of study forhistorians of modern Japan and hardly needs tobe repeated here.(21)
What matters in this context is that RuthBenedict looked at this national ideology,invented and imposed by a government forreasons of national interest, and called it aculture, something that had grown upnaturally: “A human society must make foritself some design for living." (22) Perhaps thisdistinction did not exist, or did not matter asmuch, in the small scale, indigenous culturesBenedict had studied before she went to workwith the Office of War Information, but failingto take it into account in the case of Japan wasa fatal error. The error was understandable, asit is an error that was positively promoted bythe Japanese government, and passed on,wittingly or unwittingly, by many Japaneseintellectuals. In his 1950 review of TheChrysanthemum and the Sword, YanagitaKunio wrote, “One thing we may criticizeourselves for is that those of us who have triedorally or in writing to explain Japan to theworld have often taught falsehoods. Forexample, bushido was the way of life of thebushi class, and while it is true that the bushiwere the backbone of the nation, the teachingsof bushido were limited and contained manyexceptions, and there were not many outsidethe bushi class who were influenced by it. . . .[After the Meiji Restoration] in all customs,overt or tacit, the feeling that if one followedthe path that had been previously followed bythe bushi one could not go wrong graduallyspread throughout the entire society, and inparticular came to dominate the field of
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Following the hint offered by Benedict’s book,this is a point on which we need to reflect. Thelife of the bushi class had many peculiarities.To make it the basis for the life of all the peoplewas neither possible nor necessary, and oftenharmful.”(23) Yanagita erred in giving theimpression that the gradual spread of the(revised) bushi ethic through the medium of amilitaristic, state- controlled educationalsystem was a kind of natural osmosis. But hisinsight that Benedict’s misconceptions weregrounded in a misconceived self-knowledgeamong Japanese intellectuals “biased toward aclass amounting not even to ten percent of thepopulation” is an important one. Still,identifying these "falsehoods" taught byJapanese scholars as one of her sources doesnot fully account for her analysis in all itspeculiarity and detail. Benedict read just about
everything that was available at that time inEnglish on Japan, but her analysis differs fromall earlier works. Soeda Yoshiya claims to havefound seventeen points where she seems tohave used Nitobe Inazo's Bushido as a source ,but even if this is true, her analysis is by nomeans the same as Nitobe's.(24)
The core of Benedict's work - what is originaland anthropological about it, is her analysis ofJapan as a "shame culture" whose central valuesystem comprises a hierarchically orderedseries of notions of obligation: on, chu, ko,gimu, etc., terms that are not part of Nitobe'sor any other previous analysis available toBenedict in English. At one time I thoughtBenedict's chief source for these ideas might bethe pre-1945 moral education (shushinkyouiku) textbooks issued under the authorityof the Ministry of Education, through which thestate ideology was disseminated in the schools.
Benedict did have at least some of those textsavailable in translation. However the matterwas not so simple. The moral education textsdo contain most of the terms that Benedictanalyzed, but they contain a great many othervalue terms as well: words for cooperation,benevolence, civic virtue, enterprise, mutualaid, self-management, inventiveness, etc., etc.,concepts that do not appear in Benedict’sanalysis. Benedict’s analysis is by no means adirect rendering of these texts. Rather it selectsa few of the ethical terms and ignores the rest.How did she make this selection?
Between Benedict and her data there was amedium, an interpreter. In her introduction,Benedict hints that this was so, but is enigmaticabout the interpreter's identity: “The idealauthority for any statement in this book wouldbe the proverbial man in the street. It would beanybody.”(25) Among the many notes thatBenedict took in preparation to write her reporton Japan, which are now preserved in VassarCollege Special Collections, there is one setthat differs markedly from the others. Scribbled
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on a few dozen yellow sheets is a series ofanalyses of value terms. To the extent thatthese handwritten pages can be represented intypescript, a typical page contains material likethe following:
gimuchugikoaikokushinnimmu, duty to your work"included in gimu"… … … . .……………………………………………………………………………….sumimasen lit: "it doesn't end" ((our on doesn'tend here)) = “I’m sorry” (Eng. Trans) or “I’mgrateful”(In fishing village the woman I bought pencilsfrom always said sumimasen. ((In bigdepartment stores say arigato)) I would say,"What are you sorry for?" - but accepted.………………………………………………………………………………………When I meet somebody in street; I've lost hat inwind; he returns it, I say sumimasen notarigato. He's offering me an on & I neverthought of giving him an on; (he beat me to it)suddenly – I feel guilt. (26)
Gimu. Benedict notes from interview withHashima from Vassar College Archives
And so on for many pages. Readers of TheChrysanthemum and the Sword will recognizethe insights, and may wonder who is the person– the "I" – relating these experiences. On thefirst of these note pages, and on many others,his name is given on the upper right-handcorner: Bob. This is Robert Hashima, the onlyinformant mentioned by name in thea c k n o w l e d g e m e n t s s e c t i o n o f T h eChrysanthemum and the Sword .
I interviewed Mr. Hashima in Tokyo in 1996and again in 1997. At that time I showed himthe passage about "the man in the street" andasked him, "Is that you?" He looked at the pagea long time, laughed, and said, "I guess so!"More concretely, he said, "Well, as far asproviding her with the information, I guess Iwould say it came from me."(27) It would be amistake, however, to think of Hashima as aliteral "man in the street."
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Benedict's "man in the street", though she callshim an “authority,” would be a person whoknows the customs and values of a culturesimply by being a member of it, not one whohas specialized knowledge of them gainedthrough systematic study, or who has apersonal interpretation of them. The informantis supposed to give raw data; it is theanthropologist who makes the interpretation.Leaving aside the question of whether such anunreflective person exists anywhere, this iscertainly no description of Hashima. RobertHashima was born in the U.S. and brought toJapan by his parents in 1932, at the age of 13,where he entered school. At that time he knewno Japanese. He also knew little of the officialgovernment ideology that dominated the schoolsystem during this period. He had to learn itfrom scratch:
Hashima: I just thought, well, I justhave to go along with it, not - youremember this kyouiku chokugo[Imperial Rescript on Education]?Lummis: Yeah.H a s h i m a : T h e y m a k e y o umemorize that thing, you know?And of course they had a helluvatime to make me say it, but I had tomemorize the whole thing, you see. . . .But I guess I felt that s inceeverybody was, didn't seem toobject to it, I gradually stayed, youknow, followed it. I felt there wasno sense in my trying to fight withthese people, so I just playedalong.(28)
But playing along with "these people" was notalways so easy.
Hashima: In the early days I usedto [argue back], and, I don't know,
they'd make me stand, you know,as a punishment . . . . and I'mnamaiki [smart-aleck], they callyou, they slap you around, makeyou serve tea, things like that.(29)
Benedict's notes contain the following tellingstory:
“Bob's TC [teachers college] examproblem: write on wa [harmony]bet. hub. and wife.He wrote it all right but omitted"These are all bec. of chu toprosper Imp. throne."He got 0.” (30)
Masks. Benedict notes from interview withHashima from Vassar College ArchivesAlthough Hashima was not persuaded by thisideology (". . . as far as the system goes, I didn'tcare for it."), he decided he needed to master itin order to survive. He mastered it – and the
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language – well enough to graduate from theabove-mentioned teachers college (HiroshimaShihan Gakko) and actually to teach school fora while, including classes in "moral education".When I asked him, "[H]ow were you soknowledgeable about all this at the age oftwenty-four?" his answer was, "Well, I went toteachers college there, you see . . . . "(31)
Hashima was advised by an uncle to get out ofJapan before the war started, but after hearrived in the U.S. in 1941 he was, ironically,sent to an internment camp. There he met theanthropologist John Embree, who got him a jobworking for the Office of War Information.Hashima recalled his first day at OWI:
“So I went in, and when I walkedin and reported to [Alexander]Leighton, Leighton took me toBenedict. And, oh, she's reading[Natsume Soseki’s novel] Botchan.She told me her assignment wasJapan, and she was reading thisbook, Botchan, I remember. [HereHashima relates the scene whereBotchan throws back the price of aglass of icewater to a teacher whohad insulted him.] Dr. Benedictcouldn't understand why. So that'swhere I told her, this is where thegiri, and on, these things startthere . Ooooh . She went toLe ighton , she says , I wantHashima.”(32)
Hashima became the key medium between the1930s militaristic government ideology, andRuth Benedict. But he did not merely provideinformation; as I suggested above, he had aninterpretation of that information. For him,coming to Japan for the first time as a teenagersmack in the middle of the militaristic periodand having no memory of the country beforethen, what he was taught in school was not "anideology", it was Japan itself. He didn't like it
but, as with Benedict, learning it was his"assignment", and learn it he did. Butunderneath his apparent acceptance ("Igradually . . . you know, followed it . . . .") andhis mastery of its details, his interview revealsa deep alienation, one that remained even up tothe time of the interview.
Hashima: . . . So even today,though tha t has changed ,especially among the youngerpeople, when you get older theyseem to go back into this pattern,you know. And I feel that, ah, inorder for the Japanese to changeJapan, you gotta change thelanguage and the history.Lummis: How can you change thehistory?Hashima: That's , that 's theproblem. So when they talk aboutdemocracy, it's not true democracylike you'd talk in the United States.Because these things are allbinding, you know. Always comesup.Lummis: Um hm. It's just built intothe language?Hashima: Language, living, history– you know, why do they havethese chanbara [sword-fighting]tvs going on? You know, all thesethings. That's just teaching thepublic, you know, giri! on! ninjo!Lummis: When you say change thelanguage, do you mean change thestructure?Hashima: Get rid of Japanese! Getrid of the Japanese language!Lummis: And talk what?Hashima: Change it to English!Lummis: So that's really a way ofsaying it's not possible.Hashima: Ah, impossible. I'd say –it's not gonna change.(33)
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Hashima’s combination of rich insiderinformation and radical alienation made himthe ideal informant for Benedict's assignment,which required her both to analyze and tomaintain distance from America's "most alienenemy". And one can easily see how the deepfear that must have been instilled into him byhis bitter boyhood experiences wouldharmonize well with Ann Singleton's "horror ofpattern". And lead him to a cataclysmicconclusion: nothing but total transformation,down to the root of the language, would do.
Of course Hashima was by no means Benedict'sonly informant, and her vision was doubtlessinformed by her wide reading in the Englishliterature, but it seems that he became a kindof touchstone, the authority against which shewould test information from other sources.
Hashima: But, ah, she talked tomany other Japanese people, youknow, living in Japan . . . and she'dask me. So she did rely. I feel thatshe – maybe today I kinda feelguilty, but, ah, she would ask formy opinion, what I thought aboutwhat these people had said. Andshe seemed to, if I said no, thenshe would, you know, maybechange it or something, but, ah,she kinda relied on my opinionquite a bit . . . "(34)
Clearly, Hashima was Benedict’s “idealauthority”.
The Chrysanthemum and the Sword is theproduct of a remarkable convergence ofconceptions. Benedict, Hashima, and Japan'swartime militarists – though each for entirelydifferent reasons – all promoted the myth thatJapanese society was something like a family ortribe, that there were no functional classdifferences within it, that the ideas of
democracy and rebellion were inconceivablewithin it, that its value system was traditional,that the core of its values was unchanged overthe millennia, resulting in a national identitythat was culturally determined and immutable,at least in the absence of powerful externalforce – in short, that the system was not theproduct of state or class oppression and that itwas incomprehensible in terms of suchcategories as capitalism, colonialism, militarismwhich were being applied to other societies. Tobe totalitarian and to be Japanese were one andthe same.
Benedict's most chilling expression of this wasnot the image of the sword, but that of thechrysanthemum. For her the sword was "not asymbol of aggression, but a simile of ideal andself-responsible man," whatever that means.This aspect, Benedict conceded, “they cankeep….” It was the chrysanthemum thatrepresented everything she found horrifying inJapanese culture.
The image appeared in a discussion in whichthe metaphor of gardening was used toillustrate freedom and its absence. In Japanesegardens, Benedict said, nature itself is forcedto fit the pattern of culture, its wildness istamed, and even the pine needles which seemto have "naturally" fallen from the tree areactually spread there by the gardener. “So, too,chrysanthemums are grown in pots andarranged for the annual flower shows all overJapan with each perfect petal separatelydisposed by the grower's hand and often heldin place by a tiny invisible wire rack inserted inthe living flower.”(35) Here the poet's image ofJapanese society has found its way into theanthropological text: chrysanthemums fixedrigidly on a rack, each petal impaled on a wire;human beings fixed rigidly on a rack, a wirepassing through each soul. Once again one cansense a convergence of minds here, for thismust be very much what it felt like to RobertHashima, and surely the image describes asituation that Japan's wartime government
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would very much have liked to achieve.
In any case, when confronted with this image ofa culture, Benedict's vaunted cultural relativityshut down. Perhaps it never was operableanyway except in regard to cultures safelydead. With regard to Japan, she tried tosidestep the issue in part by suggesting thatthe Japanese system was such a violation ofhuman nature that the people would naturallyabandon it simply upon being shown theAmerican alternative. Addressing her Americanreaders, she writes, “We must remember, nowthat the Japanese are looking to de-mok-ra-siesince their defeat, how intoxicating it can be tothem to act quite simply and innocently as onepleases.” And continuing the chrysanthemumimage, she adds, “The chrysanthemum whichhad been grown in a little pot and which hadsubmitted to the meticulous disposition of thepeta ls d iscovered pure joy in be ingnatural.”(36)
But there is no basis in anthropology - certainlynot in Benedict's anthropology – for describinga particular social behavior as natural. Thebehaviors of all peoples are patterned, only thepatterns are different. To imply, as Benedictdid, that the behavior of the people of one'sown country is "natural" was both to fly in theface of her own teaching and to fall into blatantethnocentrism, all the more so when the pointof reference is the enemy at the end of a bitterwar. Is this the damage war inflicts on thescientific spirit?
Benedict hoped that the Japanese would"naturally" change, but as a governmentresearcher she could not leave it at that. In thepassage quoted earlier, Benedict made clearthat the victorious U.S. government should notshirk from its task of using "that amount ofhardness, no more and no less, which willbreak up old and dangerous patterns . . ."(37)There is something chilling about an obituarywritten by a person calling for an execution. Itcalls to mind the image of a priest who, when
his beautiful funeral ceremony is disrupted bythe deceased struggling to sit up in the coffin,smacks him over the head with the shovel andthen returns to his speech on how we shouldhonor the life he had lived. It is in this contextthat Benedict's "respect" for Japanese cultureshould be understood.
But just as Benedict was wrong about Japaneseculture, she was wrong about what theOccupation could and did achieve. In breakingthe totalitarian power that the government hadover the people, the Occupation did not “breakup” the pattern of Japanese culture itself. Theprocess was far more complicated than that.Japanese culture, like all complex cultures,contained many conflicting traditions andideals. Long-standing aspirations for peace anddemocracy, which had been virtually silencedby the wartime regime, recovered and thrivedunder the post-war Constitution. But this storywould be the subject for another work. (38)
(1)This is a revised and abbreviated version ofpart two of Douglas Lummis, Uchinaru Gaikoku(Tokyo: Jiji Tsushinsha, l981), the Englishversion of which was published as C. DouglasLummis, A New Look at the Chrysanthemumand the Sword (Tokyo: Shohakusha, l982); Seefor example, Tsurumi Kazuko, “Kiku to Katana:Amerikajin no Mita Nihonteki Dotokukan [TheChrysanthemum and the Sword: JapaneseMorals as Seen by an American], Shiso Aprill947, 221-224; Tokushu: Rusu Bendikuto Kikuto Katana No Ataerumono, MinzokugakuKenkyu [Japanese Journal of Ethnology] 14:4,l949 [Special Issue: Proposals from RuthBenedict’s The Chrysanthemum and the Sword] especially the critiques by Watsuji Tetsuroand Yanagita Kunio; for the latter in English,see C. Douglas Lummis, tr. “Yanagita Kunio’sCritique of The Chrysanthemum and theSword,” Kokusai Kankei Kenkyu (TsudaCollege) 24:3, l998, 125-140; J. W. Bennett &
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M. Nagai , “The Japanese Cri t ique ofMethodology of Benedict’s Chrysanthemumand the Sword,” American Anthropologist 55,l953, 404-411; and Sakuta Keiichi, “Haji nobunka saiko,” [A Reconsideration of ShameCultures] Shiso no kagaku 4, l964.
(2) See Derek Freeman, Margaret Mead andSamoa: The Making and Unmaking of anAnthropological Myth (Cambridge and London:Harvard U. Press, 1983); Martin Orans, NotEven Wrong - Margaret Mead, Derek Freeman,and the Samoans (Novato, California: Chandlerand Sharp, 1996); Ruth Benedict, Patterns ofCulture (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, l934);Clifford Geertz "Us/Not-Us: Benedict's Travels"in Geertz, Works and Lives: The Anthropologistas Author (Stanford: Stanford U. Press, 1988),128.
(3) Ruth Benedict, The Chrysanthemum and theSword - Patterns of Japanese Culture(Cambridge: Houghton Mifflin, 1946), 5.
(4)) Ruth Benedict, "German Defeatism at theBeginning of the Fifth Winter of War", (Officeof War Information, 1943.Box 99, Folder 99.4,Ruth Fulton Benedict Papers, Vassar College[hereafter RFB/Vassar], 1,6; Benedict, TheChrysanthemum and the Sword, 315.
(5) Ibid., 299-30 (emphasis added).
(6) Chapter II, "The Beauty of the World ofDeath", New Look at the Chrysanthemum andt h e S w o r d , 1 1 - 2 8 ; R u t h B e n e d i c t ,"Anthropology and the Humanities" inMargaret Mead, An Anthropologist at Work -Writing of Ruth Benedict (Boston: HoughtonMifflin, 1959), 460; Margaret Mead, "A NewPreface" to the 1959 edition of op. cit. Patternsof Culture, ix.
(7) Op. cit., An Anthropologist at Work, 301;Ruth Benedict, "The Story of My Life", Mead,An Anthropologist at Work, 100.
(8) Benedict, “The Story of My Life”, 98, 99.
(9)) "Resurgam", Mead, An Anthropologist atWork, 194.
(10) ibid., xviii. Benedict, Patterns of Culture,21-22.
(11) Mead., An Anthropologist at Work, 5.
(12) Ibid., p. 202, 206
(13) Ibid., p. 207, 292, 301, 302. Concerningthe informant they called Nick, or sometimesNick Zuni, there is a story that needs to be told.In 1925 Jaime de Angulo, the Spanish-bornenfant terrible of American anthropology,wrote to Benedict,“As for helping you to get an informant, and theway you describe it ‘if I took him with me to asafely American place’ . . . ‘an informant whowould be wil l ing to give me tales andceremonials’ . . .oh God! Ruth, you have no ideahow much that has hurt me. I don’t know how Iam going to be able to talk to you about it,because I have a sincere affection for you. Butdo you realize that it is just that sort of thingthat kills the Indians? I mean it seriously. Itkills them spiritually first, and as in their lifethe spiritual and the physical element are muchmore interdependent than in our own stage ofculture, they soon die of it physically. They justlie down and die.” (Jaime de Angulo to RuthBenedict, Berkeley, California, 19 May, 1925,Box 28, Folder 28.1, Ruth Fulton BenedictPapers, Vassar College Libraries SpecialCollections). In her biography of Benedict,Judith Schachter Modell quotes from this letteronly to make light fun of it, and to assure thereader that de Angulo’s “horror” (her quotationmarks) was unfounded. (Judith SchachterModell, Ruth Benedict: Patterns of a Life[Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press,1983], 177). But the rest of the story is told in afootnote to a rather obscure field report writtenby Ruth Bunzel. In the main text she wrote,“And since there is an ill-defined feeling that in
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teaching prayers, ’giving them away,’ as theZunis say, the teacher loses some of the powerover them, men are ‘stingy’ with their religion.”The note to this reads,
“This was made painfully evident to the writerin the death of one of her best informants who,among other things, told her many prayers intext. During his last illness he related a dreamwhich he believed portended death andremarked, ‘Yes, now I must die. I have givenyou all my religion and I have no way to protectmyself.’ He died two days later. He wassuspected of sorcery and his death was asource of general satisfaction. Another friend ofthe writer, who had always withheld esotericinformation, remarked, “Now your friend isdead. He gave away his religion as if it were ofno value, and now he is dead.” He was voicingpublic opinion.” (Ruth Bunzel, “Introduction toZuni Ceremonialism,” Forty-Seventh AnnualReport of the Bureau of American Ethnology tothe Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution,1929-1930, [Washington, United StatesGovernment Printing Office, 1932], 494 and494n.).
From the description it seems certain that thiswas Nick.
(15) Ibid., 136.
(16) Ruth Benedict, "Love that is Water", Mead,An Anthropologist at Work, 474.
(17) Ruth Benedict, "Countermand", Ibid., 476.
(18) Ruth Benedict, "Preference", Ibid., 177, 8.
(19) Mead, An Anthropologist at Work, 144.
(20) Benedict, The Chrysanthemum and theSword, p. 294. As op. cit. Yanagita pointed out,Benedict achieved this transference by ignoringthe rich vocabulary the Japanese language has
for expressing guilt.
(21) Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds.,The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge, NewYork, Melbourne: Cambridge U. Press, 1983);s e e L u m m i s , A N e w L o o k a t T h eChrysanthemum and the Sword, Ch. 4.
(22) Benedict, The Chrysanthemum and theSword, 12.
(23) Lummis, “Yanagida Kunio’s Critique,” 131.
(24) Soeda Yoshiya, Nihonbunka Shiron:Benekikuto Kiku to Katana wo Yomu [Essays onJapanese Culture: Reading Benedict’s TheChrysanthemum and the Sword], (Tokyo:Shinyosha, 1993) 98-99.
(25) Benedict, The Chrysanthemum and theSword, 16.
(26) RFB/Vassar Box 104, Folders 4-9.
(27) Douglas Lummis, Robert Hashimainterview, 16 October, 1996.
(30) RFB/Vassar, Box 104, Folder 4
(31) Robert Hashima interview, 16 October,1996.
(33) Douglas Lummis, Robert HashimaInterview, 14 January, 1997.
(35) Benedict, The Chrysanthemum and theSword, 296, 295.
(36) Ibid., 294-95. Benedict’s attempt to render
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the word “democracy” into the Japanesephonetic system is an embarrassing reminderof her ignorance of the basics of that language.
(37). Ibid., 299-300.
(38) Actually this work has already beenwritten. See John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat(New York: W.W. Norton, 1999).
C. Douglas Lummis is the author of RadicalD e m o c r a c y(http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Democracy-C-
D o u g l a s -Lummis/dp/0801484510/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/104-1615893-2559918?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1184852967&sr=8-1) and is a Japan Focusassociate. He taught at Tsuda College.
This article was revised, and a preface anddocuments added, for Japan Focus. Posted July19, 2007.
For an exchange on Benedict see Uno andL u m m i s .(http://japanfocus.org/_Toru_UNO__C_D_Lummis -Ruth_Benedict_s_Obituary_for_Japanese_Culture__An_Exchange)