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The Annual Jansen Lecture: Mori Nao Divorces Her Husband and His Family Puts Him in a Cage

Luke Roberts, University of California, Santa Barbara

April 19, 2023 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · 202 Jones Hall

East Asian Studies Program

In 1824 a young newlywed samurai woman of Kōchi castle town in southwestern Japan named Mori Nao wanted to divorce her samurai husband because she did not like him. Nao’s husband adamantly refused to give her a divorce and the legal system said that only a man had the right and privilege to do so. After overcoming some resistance from her own family, she was able to get them on her side, and then her husband’s family on her side and finally even the government of her domain allied with her and pressured him to divorce her. His relatives forced the divorce and put him in a cage in his back yard for some months, even though he had been defending his legal prerogative. This talk examines gender and the legal system by focusing on its functioning rather than the letter of the law, and also examines gender relations of a samurai family in its social context based on the rich sources that exist for this incident.

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