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Fabian DrixlerMabiki: Infanticide and Population Growth in Eastern Japan, 1660-1950

University of California Press, 2013

by Carla Nappi on September 9, 2013

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[Cross-posted from New Books in East Asian Studies] The book opens on a scene in the mountains of Gumna, Japan. A midwife kneels next to a mother who has just given birth, and she proceeds to strangle the newborn. It’s an arresting way to begin an inspiring new book by Fabian DrixlerMabiki: Infanticide and Population Growth in Eastern Japan, 1660-1950 (University of California Press, 2013) weaves together demographic analysis and cultural history to chart the transformations in infanticide, population, and society in Japan from the late seventeenth century through the twentieth century. Focusing on Eastern Japan as a unit of analysis, Mabiki bases its narrative on a rich source base compiled with the help of the work of “a thousand local historians.” In a rich account of cultures of family planning in Eastern Japan, Drixler both challenges dominant theories of fertility transitions in demographic history, while at the same time redefining what “fertility” might mean as a historical object. It is a fascinating book that speaks to a wide range of readers interested in the histories and life cycles of birth and death as locally emergent objects. Enjoy!

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