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Professor Mark Ramseyer and the Buraku Question: an Introduction

May 1, 2021
Volume 19 | Issue 9 | Number 2
Article ID 5592

 

Throughout his career J Mark Ramseyer (hereafter JMR) has delighted in generating an academic reputation as a contrarian who applies the “rationality of social science” to explain aspects of modern Japanese history that he considers others both in Japan and elsewhere to have failed to comprehend. His usual method is to create a simple model that he thinks illustrates the basic dynamics of the situation and then apply the logic of rational choice/game theory to it. It was probably only a matter of time before he turned his attention to some of the most controversial topics in twentieth century Japanese social history: Zainichi Koreans, the “comfort women” (ianfu) issue, Okinawans, and Burakumondai.

In recent months there has been a strong and rapid reaction to the papers JMR has published on the ianfu/comfort women and zainichi Korean issues including demands that the journals that published these papers formally retract them.1 However, the same egregious errors of method and substance that commentators have noted in those papers also occur in his work on Buraku issues. 

He has published two peer-reviewed journal articles on the Buraku question:

 

Outcaste Politics and Organized Crime in Japan: The Effect of Terminating Ethnic Subsidies Journal of Empirical Legal Studies (JELS), Volume 15, Issue 1, 192–238, March 2018 (with Eric B. Rasmusen) – hereafter, Outcaste Politics and Organized Crime

 

On the Invention of Identity Politics: The Buraku Outcastes in Japan, Review of Law and Economics (RLE) 16; 2 2020 – hereafter, On the Invention of Identity Politics

 

These are substantially the same as, and are based on two discussion papers published earlier by the John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics, and Business at Harvard University, where he is Mitsubishi Professor of Japanese Legal Studies.2

In this edition of APJ JF we present a set of seven responses which mainly focus on the more recent and much longer second of these two articles, On the Invention of Identity Politics. Five are translations of statements made by Japanese historians and social scientists to which we attach their original versions. One is a joint statement by a group of two Japanese and two Anglophone social scientists on his research objectives and methodology which we also publish in English and Japanese. The final statement is endorsed by five of the leading Anglophone scholars working on Buraku issues in Europe, Singapore and North America. They form part of a campaign of protest which aims to correct the statements made and demand the journals that published the papers formally retract them.

 

The “Buraku Problem” (Buraku mondai

For those readers with no background in the study of Japan some brief words of explanation of the “Buraku problem” are perhaps required. Burakumin are the descendants of outcaste groups from the Edo era who continued to face prejudice even after they were formally emancipated from segregation in the nineteenth century. They are not a distinct people ethnically, religiously or linguistically. The exact size of their population is contested. Government surveys only include the descendants of outcaste families who currently dwell in Buraku communities and have consistently suggested a figure of around 1% of the total population. But if we were to count all those who, if their background were known, would be vulnerable to discrimination in marriage or employment for example, whether or not they reside in Buraku communities, the figure is said to be closer to 3% or about three million people today. Although formal restrictions were lifted by the Meiji government in 1871 as part of the process of dismantling the old regime, prejudice and discrimination continued across the late nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries. From the late 1890s groups formed within Buraku communities to improve themselves, to demand government aid and to protest against the continuing discrimination. In the 1920s, just as the Japanese workers and tenant farmers organised unions to protect their interests, so Burakumin formed an organisation, the Suiheisha, Leveler’s Association, which aimed at “liberation by our own efforts.” It survived until the late 1930s but was unable to resist the rise of the authoritarian wartime state.

The movement reformed in the late 1940s and, when it became clear that the occupation’s democratic reforms had not eliminated prejudices, a new organisation, called the Buraku Liberation League (BLL) from 1955, launched campaigns against specific instances of discrimination and demanded government devise an affirmative action programme that would ensure they did not miss out on the rapid economic growth that was benefiting most of Japanese society. The movement succeeded in persuading the government to establish a committee of enquiry which in its report published in 1965 recommended the launch of a Dōwa policy programme to improve the living conditions and life chances of those resident in Buraku communities. A Special Measures Law to authorize funding and planning for this programme was enacted in 1969. The policy continued until 2002. At this point the government declared the Buraku problem had been solved despite abundant evidence of the continued existence of discrimination. In 2016, partly in response to criticism of its inaction by such bodies as the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations, a law was passed that declared discrimination “unacceptable”. It decreed no penalties but did provide for a survey of Buraku communities. When its scope was decided it was made explicit that the survey should not try to assess the Buraku living conditions, just the existence of discrimination. The resulting report produced in 2020 by the Ministry of Justice, Human Rights division expressed its concern that information available on the internet promoted prejudice and could instil discriminatory attitudes. 



An Overview of Ramseyer’s Articles on the Buraku Issue

It is the basic claim of the articles that follow that both of JMR’s articles on the Buraku question make outrageous and discriminatory assertions about the nature of Burakumin and Buraku communities likely to sustain prejudices through their uncritical reliance on anecdotal examples, selective quotation from previous scholarship and the manipulation of apparently sophisticated statistical methods. 

The first article, Outcaste Politics and Organized Crime, focuses its attention on the impact of the Dowa programmes which central government funded from 1969-2002 with the aim of levelling up conditions within Buraku communities in order to eliminate the material bases of discrimination. Combining evidence from the 1935 National Yūwa Project Census with a municipality-level panel dataset covering a wide variety of social and economic variables, the authors (his co-author is Eric B. Rasmusen, Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy at Indiana University) argue that their data show that “by changing the relative expected returns to legal and illegal activity, the funds awarded young men who chose careers in organized crime.” (JELS, 235). Partly as a consequence of this, rather than reducing the impact of prejudices “…the subsidies gave new support to the tendency many Japanese already had to equate the burakumin with the mob”. (JELS, 192) Moreover, “program termination caused resourceful burakumin to integrate themselves into mainstream society, and other Japanese to find the burakumin neighborhoods more attractive places to live” so that “burakumin increasingly left the community and faded into the Japanese mainstream.” (JELS, 235) The conclusion, although not clearly stated, seems to be that it would have been better if the state had not stepped in. However, they say little, almost nothing, about the actual process of the Dōwa policy implementation 1969-2002. Their data on migration out of Buraku areas into mainstream society, for example, is from the period 1947-68 (Table 5). 

The single-authored second article, On the Invention of Identity Politics, which is the main target of criticism in the articles which follow, builds somewhat on the first and refers back to it in several places. Overall, he ramps up the strength of his criticism of previous scholarship for example:

 

“Work on the modern buraku by serious Japanese scholars barely exists.” (RLE, 5), and 

“Western scholars and intellectuals miss the logic to the buraku”s transformation because they miss the basic economics of social and political behavior.” (RLE, 84) 

 

Instead he offers a completely different account of the Buraku Question from its pre-modern origins to its place in twenty-first century Japan.

He rejects the view of previous scholars both western and Japanese (including his own account in 2018)3 who describe Burakumin as suffering discrimination “because their ancestors handled carcasses, and ran afoul of a traditional Japanese obsession with ritual purity.”(RLE, 1) Rather he claims most burakumin “trace their ancestry to a loose collection of unusually self-destructive poor farmers; who formed communities with astonishingly high levels of crime.”(RLE, 2) Despite the existence of an abundance of evidence, he does not recognize or even discuss the persistence of discrimination following departure from their native Buraku community stating simply, “If a burakumin moves more than … ten blocks, … he ceases to be a burakumin.” (RLE, 21) He must do this in order to be able to apply his model. His “logic” is based on a simplistic reading of Hirschman who talks of “exit”, “voice” and “loyalty”.4 To summarise: he suggests that over the twentieth century Buraku could “exit” and escape their background if they so chose, or remain “loyal” to their “criminal” community. He does not discuss “voice” although that might have been a way of approaching the activities of the Suiheisha and BLL within the logic of his model.

The vehemence of his argument increases with references to the Suiheisha as “a heavily criminal extortion machine.” (RLE, 1) The founders of the Suiheisha are held responsible for inventing the idea that “burakumin” trace their ancestry to a guild of seventeenth century tanners and leather-workers to accord with Marxist orthodoxy and devising an “identity politics based shake-down strategy” through which “they began to extort ever-increasing amounts of money from local governments.” (both quotes RLE, 3) This would evolve into campaigns by the BLL in postwar Japan for the funding of the Dōwa policy programmes.

Armed with his understanding of the “economics of social behaviour”, JMR proposes to explain the social transformation of the Buraku communities during the twentieth century through an analysis of 14 national censuses and a bewildering variety of national datasets: inter alia crime rates 1920 and 2010, welfare dependency 2010, illegitimacy rates 1920 and 2009, exogamy 1920 (i.e. marriage to non-Buraku partners), Suiheisha branch offices in 1933, murder rate 1920, methamphetamine crimes 2011(RLE, 27-8); and prefectural level variables based on Burakumin per capita income 1993, sewage rate 2010, life expectancy 2010, height of girls in Grade 5 2010, and infant mortality rate 2010 (RLE, 22). This he combines with uncritical use of anecdotal evidence from the early 20th century which, for example, describes Burakumin as “quick tempered”, “uncooperative”, “violent” and lazy (RLE, 47-8) and unsubstantiated statements such as in the 1980s “20% of the 20–29 year old burakumin men would have been part of the mob, and 25% of men in their 30s. (RLE, 30) 

But what does he conclude from all this? The core argument seems to be not much different from that in the 2018 JELS article that “burakumin who perceived a comparative advantage in criminal careers stayed to divert the government subsidies to their private accounts.” (RLE, 3) Once again he argues that those Burakumin who remained in their communities were likely to “join criminal syndicates”. And the “criminal leaders” who had taken charge of the “mob dominated” BLL “embarked on full-scale shake-down identity politics” using violent extortionate tactics “to successfully extract ever-increasing amounts of government subsidies but at the same time trigger “ever increasing public hostility”. (All quotes from RLE, 85) So he describes Dōwa policy as being the result of extortionate tactics which have increased discrimination. It is this Burakumin connection with violent crime, he suggests, not any “notion of ritual purity” which explains why “some Japanese might not want to marry or hire a person from the group.” (RLE, 72) These are incendiary accusations that one cannot imagine being allowed to see light of day in discussions of community relations anywhere in the world. 

 

Why Has It Taken So Long for This Critical Response to Emerge? 

There are several reasons. Firstly, these are quite obscure journals, or at least journals that are unlikely to be consulted by students of Japanese history or politics. Speaking for myself, I feared that taking up JMR’s challenge to the existing body of Buraku scholarship would give his ideas greater publicity than they deserved: better that they remained in well-deserved obscurity. Or to quote Fujino Yutaka, whose critique appears below: “The content of the article is hardly worthy of a serious refutation from an academic point of view.” Secondly, the world of Buraku studies outside Japan, such as it exists, is quite small, so when these articles were published it seemed reasonable to conclude that we would be better off focusing on completing our own evidence-based research about Buraku issues rather than getting distracted by spending time refuting his flamboyantly outrageous claims. Thirdly, within Japan, scholars active in the field are less likely than most to keep abreast of English language material. Their response only emerged in mid 2019 when the Olin paper 964 was hastily translated into Japanese. Finally, there was a specific reason for younger Japanese scholars to avoid giving publicity to research that makes use of data gathered in 1935 about Buraku communities (a core part of the work by JMR and Rasmusen).5 For several years the BLL supported by some 200 others has been engaged in a legal struggle with an anti-BLL activist who announced plans in 2015 to reprint the 1935 census data. The BLL argues that this can be used to facilitate discrimination against the descendants of the residents of those communities and has sued to prevent publication. Those involved in the court case feared that he might be encouraged by JMR’s arguments and be somehow able to manipulate reports about this international interest to justify his plans to make the census details openly available.6 

 

So What Has Changed? 

Firstly, possibly because of the reputation of Harvard university, his two articles are now likely to appear in the top two or three of articles on Buraku issues in any Google search. Given how little material there is on Buraku issues in English we consider it important to get “out there” a series of challenges to his egregious misinterpretations of Buraku history in a form that is accessible to students and indeed anyone interested in the issue. Secondly, there is a fear that Ramseyer’s arguments about Burakumin will be seized on by those on the nationalist right to launch criticisms of the BLL in the same way as right-wing Japanese groups have enthusiastically embraced his views on ianfu and Zainichi Koreans.7 Finally, as a result of the robust responses in both Korea and Japan to the two pieces published by JMR on ianfu and Zainichi Koreans, his arguments on Buraku issues no longer exist in obscurity, however well-deserved that might be.8 There is a fear that those without expert knowledge in this field might conclude that although he may be unreliable in matters concerning Koreans lacking, as he admits, any facility with the Korean language, his work on Buraku matters which uses Japanese language sources should be more reliable. The pieces below demonstrate that this is not the case. 


***

So let me briefly introduce these articles and their authors, some of whom may not be familiar to readers of this journal:

 

Mistaken Assertions: a Response to J Mark Ramseyer

Teraki Nobuaki and Fujii Toshikazu

Professor Teraki Nobuaki (寺木伸明) is an historian based at Momoyamagakuin University who has researched outcaste groups in the premodern period for most of his academic career. He has published numerous books and articles on the forebears of the Buraku communities mostly in the Kansai area. He has served as the chair of the board of directors of the Buraku Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute (BLHRRI) based in Osaka. His colleague, Fujii Toshikazu(藤井寿一)is a researcher at the Wakayama Human Rights Research Institute, whose research focuses on discriminated people in the early modern period mainly in Kiinokuni, Wakayama, the south of Mie and Mikawanokuni in eastern Aichi.

They extract three assertions from JMR’s remarks about the origins of the Buraku question to argue that contrary to his assertions: 

That Burakumin “do not trace their lineage to tanners, executioners, or leather workers”, rather current research demonstrates that the antecedents of Burakumin were “closely related by social lineage to leather workers and slaughtermen”,

That kawata never had monopoly rights to dispose of dead animals, on the contrary “there is ample historical evidence” that they did, and

That discrimination was not “out of any concern for ritual purity”, instead the historical record shows that “There is a great deal of documentation of the existence of discrimination based on notions of defilement.”

They also give examples of his selective use of quotations “in a totally unscholarly way”.



Problems with the References to Historical Documents in J. M. Ramseyer, “On the Invention of Identity Politics: The Buraku Outcastes in Japan”

Toriyama Hiroshi 

Toriyama has worked mainly on the history of Buraku communities in eastern Japan. Here he also focuses on the errors in JMR's account of the early modern period forensically examining his use, or perhaps we should say mis-use, of Japanese sources. He demonstrates in some detail how JMR quotes selectively from the limited amount of work that he is aware of while paying no attention to their authors’ broader argument and ignores other easily accessible research that would have undermined his claims. He concludes that it amounts to no more than a set of “groundless casual notions” inappropriate in an academic article. 



Issues in Ramseyer’s Understanding of Modern Buraku History and the Suiheisha

Asaji Takeshi and Hirooka Kiyonobu

Asaji Takeshi is the director of Liberty Osaka (formerly the Osaka Human Rights Museum) in south Osaka. He is an historian of the modern Buraku liberation movements who has written extensively about the Suiheisha. His colleague Hirooka Kiyonobu is an associate professor at the Research Center for Human Rights, Osaka City University whose research focuses on minorities of the Japanese Empire currently, the historical experience of Buraku issues and cultural exchange histories relating to racism in the modern age. 

Asaji and Hirooka are very concerned about JMR’s uncritical use of state generated data both about the Rice Riots and from the 1920s to make generalisations about the alleged “criminality” of those in Buraku communities. They point out that his claim that the founders of the Suiheisha invented an identity runs counter to the historical evidence and that there were extensive debates about strategy within the organization that JMR fails to mention. They reject his portrayal of Matsumoto Jiichirō as an “apolitical, opportunistic criminal”.

Overall, they conclude JMR”s account “shows contempt for Buraku people and historical evaluations of the Buraku liberation movement.” 



Crucial Fallacies in “On the Invention of Identity Politics: the Buraku Outcastes in Japan” by J. Mark Ramseyer 

Fujino Yutaka 

Fujino is a professor at Keiwa College who has published on various aspects of modern Japanese history including Dōwa policy and the Suiheisha, the relationship between Japanese fascism and the treatment of Hansen's disease (leprosy), eugenics, and prostitution. 

His critique of JMR’s Invention of Identity Politics covers much the same ground as the Asaji/Hirooka commentary but uses quite different examples to demonstrate JMR’s poor understanding of the historical record. He begins by exploring JMR’s “error regarding the establishment of modern Buraku” pointing to the process of the formation of an urban buraku in Yokohama paying particular attention to the role played by “people engaged in leather processing, shoe and sandal manufacturing, and slaughterhouse laborers” thus refuting JMR’s claim that the link between discriminated buraku and the leather industry was something “invented” in the early 1920s. Secondly, he discusses the “error of prejudice equating Burakumin with criminals” noting how this has been part of the “logic affirming discrimination in modern and contemporary Japan”. He documents how this idea has supported discrimination across the twentieth century from the origins of the Yūwa policy in 1907, through the writings of Kagawa Toyohiko in 1915, to comments about the Rice Riots, the criticisms of the activities of the Suiheisha in the late 1920s through to the Sayama trial campaign in the late twentieth century. In each of these cases JMR’s account adopts the “discriminatory view without question.” Thirdly, he comments briefly on JMR”s “errors about the Levellers” movement” showing that there were a wide range of beliefs held by that movement’s founders - anarchist, nationalist, Buddhist - and that communism did not have much impact. Fujino concludes JMR can only reach the conclusions he does by relying heavily and uncritically on reports from public prosecutor Hasegawa Nei and the Kyoto prefectural government police and that his article,…was written based on discrimination and prejudice…. It is not even worthy of academic critique.”  

 

Letter to the Editors-in-Chief of the Review of Law and Economics: “On the invention of Identity Politics: The Buraku Outcastes in Japan” by J. Mark Ramseyer

Akuzawa Mariko and Saitō Naoko

These two sociologists from Osaka City University provide an introductory comment which notes how generational change within Buraku communities make it all the more important to resist attempts of historical revisionists such as JMR who distort history of the Buraku communities by asserting the “fictive” nature of Buraku identity. Their letter to the editors of RLE begins by noting JMR's neglect of the legal and political process that led to the creation of the Dōwa special measures projects. However their principal focus is JMR’s misuse of statistical data and his assertions that ignore publicly available data that would disprove his account of the demographic data. They point out that his “lack of engagement with recent scholarship in Japanese is nothing short of inexcusable”. They show how he misinterprets the data on demographic changes, how his attempts to connect membership with indices of dysfunctional behaviour such as crime and involvement with methamphetamines commit the “ecological fallacy”, and how his argument that Dōwa measures “encouraged Burakumin men to drop out of school” and divert them into criminal careers is not supported by the publicly available data. Finally they question the ethics of his use of the 1935/6 Yūwa census data suggesting that his research method would be unlikely to get approval within a Japanese research institute. They conclude that despite “the substantial academic research published in different journals and monographs…he seems to have ignored this body of work, leading to his many misinterpretations.”

 

Condemning J. Mark Ramseyer’s Paper “On the Invention of Identity Politics: The Buraku Outcastes in Japan”

Fujioka Mieko, Joseph Hankins, Kumamoto Risa and Suraj Yengde 

These social scientists turn our attention to the flaws and dangers of JMR’s paper from a different set of directions. Their focus is on his research objectives and methodology, the particular responsibilities of researchers who work in fields where their publications can easily promote discrimination and hate speech as a result of endorsing stereotypes, and the need to be aware of the asymmetries of power in the relationships between, on the one hand, researchers based in powerful (and wealthy) western institutes and, on the other, minorities who almost by definition do not have the same access to material and non-material resources.

They conclude that the “methodology used is full of serious flaws and fails to meet the basic requirements needed for any scholarship”. Its conclusion is not only “unsubstantiated but may also encourage prejudice and discrimination against an already vulnerable minority group”, and it fails to “uphold the high standards of research ethics” expected of contemporary scholars.

 

Doing Violence to Buraku History: J. Mark Ramseyer’s Dangerous Inventions 

David Ambaras, Timothy D. Amos, Maren Ehlers, Anne McKnight, and Ian Neary

This piece while relying heavily on work done by Tim Amos has been contributed to and is endorsed by four other academics who between them have a broad range of expertise on the Buraku Question: on the early modern history of outcaste communities, the twentieth century history of Buraku issues, twentieth century Buraku linked literature, and the political history of the Buraku liberation movement and Dōwa policy. 

This powerful rebuttal extracts from JMR’s rambling piece three linked arguments that are all individually problematic and distort the realities of Buraku history:

(1) that Burakumin were historically simply poor peasants (the “poor peasant” thesis); 

(2) that Burakumin basically brought themselves into existence in the modern era (the “modern self-construction” argument); and

(3) that Burakumin are essentially a group that has organized itself in order to extort Japanese society with the backing of the state in the postwar period (the “state-enabled dysfunctional interest group” argument).

They begin by focusing on the claims JMR makes about the early modern origins and experiences of the various groups that came to be labelled “Burakumin” during the late 19th century. It draws examples from a wide variety of sources including Amos’ recently published work on Danzaemon, the leader of the kawata/hinin communities in Edo and Ehlers’ work on the status order of the Tokugawa period. The second section considers JMR’s account of the formation of Suiheisha in the 1920s as an attempt to “invent” an identity for themselves. This builds on his conviction that Burakumin were never historical outcastes but nevertheless somehow constructed a fictive identity according to which they had fulfilled a functional but discriminated role in the Tokugawa period. In fact, he argues, they did (and do) no more than add to the dysfunctionality of Japanese society and have no legitimate basis for existence as an organized group. The third section turns its attention to JMR’s assertions of the strong links between Burakumin, criminality and criminal organisations to the extent of characterising the successful campaigns for national level Dōwa programmes as some kind of state-enabled extortion of a semi-criminal organization. They demonstrate how his arguments are not only examples of poor academic practice but amount to a series of derogatory statements about Burakumin. 

 

Finally

In addition to these scholarly responses to JMR’s articles there have been reactions from civil society. On 8 March 2021 IMADR, IDSN and MRG9 issued a joint statement in protest against JMR’s distortion of the history of Buraku communities. On 15 March 2021 the Buraku Liberation League issued a statement that strongly urged the editors of The Review of Law and Economics to retract the article.

Commenting on an earlier work by JMR, Johnson and Keehn noted in 1993 how the application of rational choice theory to Japan is characterised by an “arrogant disregard of Japanese scholarship that borders on academic malpractice.”10 The pieces that we publish here show how in his most recent publications he has crossed that border. 



Related Articles:

Daniel V. Botsman, Cartography and the Problem of Discrimination in Modern Japan: The Return of the Outcast(e) Map: Kobe, Cartography and the Problem of Discrimination in Modern Japan

Noah McCormack, Affirmative Action Policies Under the Posterwar Japanese Constitution: On the Effects of the Dōwa Special Measures Policy

Alastair McCloughlan, Japan”s Burakumin: An Introduction



Notes

1

See for example articles by Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Amy Stanley et al., Alexis Dudden in the March 1 2021 edition of The Asia-Pacific Journal, and Seeking the True Story of Comfort Women: How a Harvard Professor’s Dubious Scholarship Reignited a History of Mistrust between South Korea and Japan” by Jeannie Suk Gersen in The New Yorker, 25 February 2021.

2

Outcaste Politics and Organized Crime in Japan: The Effect of Terminating Ethnic Subsidies J. Mark Ramseyer & Eric B. Rasmusen, Discussion Paper No. 932, 09/2017.

On the Invention of Identity Politics: The Buraku Outcastes in Japan, J. Mark Ramseyer, Discussion Paper No. 964, 06/2018, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA 02138.

3

In the 2018 article he described Burakumin as “… descendants of people who had worked in ritually unclean jobs such as butchering and tanning.” RELS p 193.

4

Hirschman, Albert O. 1970. Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

5

The paper by Akuzawa and Saitō provides some further background to this court case.

6

And there are indeed two brief recordings on YouTube in which he introduces his followers to the second JMR paper with some enthusiasm.

7

See for example, “There are no mistakes in Professor Ramseyer’s article” Arima Tetsuo, Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact.

8

Kitano Ryuichi,慰安婦だけでなく部落問題でも:米ハーバード大教授の論文に「撤回要求」相次ぐ (Not only Ianfu, Demands Are Also Being Made for the Withdrawal of Harvard Professor”s articles on Buraku Mondai.) AERA. dot, 2021.3.26.

9

Statement: Problem of Ramseyer’s Article on Buraku: from the Perspective of Human Rights and Non-Discrimination” International Movement Against Discrimination and Racism, International Dalit Solidarity Network and Minority Rights Group International.

10

Chalmers Johnson and E. B. Keehn, “A Disaster in the Making: Rational Choice and Asian Studies,” The National Interest no. 36. (1994): 16.

This article is a part of Japan’s Burakumin (Outcastes) Reconsidered: A Special Issue Refuting Ramseyer’s Interpretation. Please see the Table of Contents.

Please also see our previous special issues on the Ramseyer controversy, Supplement to Special Issue: Academic Integrity at Stake: The Ramseyer Article - Four Letters - edited by Alexis Dudden.



Ian Neary is an emeritus fellow at the Nissan Institute and St Antony’s College, Oxford University. He has published on the Suiheisha, human rights in East Asia and a text book on Japanese politics. His biography of Matsumoto Jiichirō, The Buraku Issue and Modern Japan, was published in English in 2010 and in Japanese translation in 2016. His book, Dōwa Policy and Japanese Politics, will be published by Routledge in July 2021.