Sarah Rebecca Schmid

Sarah Rebecca Schmid, M.A.

Assistentin Japanologie

Tel.: +41 44 634 31 82

Raumbezeichnung: ZUB 4-418


seit 01/2017 Assistentin Database JBAE, Asien-Orient-Institut, Universität Zürich
seit 09/2017  Doktorandin, Doktoratsprogramm "Asien und Europa", Universität Zürich
2016 – 2017 Doktorandin, Asien-Orient-Institut, Universität Zürich
2011 – 2015 Master of Arts in Japanischer Philologie und Kunstgeschichte Ostasiens, Universität Zürich
2012 – 2013 Monbukagakusho-Stipendium für Studierende der Japanologie, Doshisha University, Kyoto (Japan)
2007 – 2011 Bachelor of Arts in Japanologie und Kunstgeschichte Ostasiens, Universität Zürich
2009 – 2010 Intensives Japanisch-Sprachprogramm, Meiji University, Tokyo (Japan)


Working Title

“The Persuasiveness of Myth – National Identity and Mass Media in Meiji Japan”


The majority of research on the development of Japanese national identity during the Meiji period (1868-1912) is centred on the government. However, a mounting number of scientists are critical of this exclusive focus on government strategies. Still, hardly any substantial inquiries have been made into the diverse nature of Japanese national identity in the early Meiji period. This project aims to close this gap in research by using primary sources that have been largely ignored up to this point, namely printed mass media. According to Anthony Smith, mass public culture and common myths are two factors that contribute to the development of national identity. Mythological narratives are powerful because they explain one aspect of reality which is believed to be true, regardless of whether the narratives themselves are objectively true or not. To be effective, however, myths have to be ‘worked on’, i.e. they have to be constantly re-narrated.

Meiji Japan possessed a very vibrant mass culture, as well as its fair share of common myths. Through the narratives of three mythological figures with different backgrounds – Jingū kōgō 神功皇后, Minamoto no Yoshitsune 源義経, and Saigō Takamori 西郷隆盛 – this project aims to explain how the Japanese people negotiated their national identity in processes far more complex than dictated state ideology. The narratives of the three chosen myths contributed to shaping Japanese identity and an emerging expansionist ambition towards the Asian continent through the repetition of a common “history”, be that the (alleged) invasion of Korea in the 3rd century A.D. by Jingū kōgō, the conviction that Minamoto no Yoshitsune fled Japan to become Genghis Khan, or that Saigō Takamori would return from overseas to set Japan on the right path, despite his death in 1877.

The project aims to achieve its goal through the collection and analysis of primary sources, including different types of printed mass media (such as woodblock prints, books, magazine articles, etc.) found in archives, which shall then be embedded in their historical context and analysed in regards to the meaning and effect of the narratives found in the sources. Some of these sources are available digitally, while others will require on-site research in Japanese archives. Due to the hybrid nature of many sources, pictorial and literary material will be treated as equally important. In this vein, the project aims to pursue a more interdisciplinary approach to the topic, as well as to make new sources available to a wider audience, and provide a new angle on the topic of national identity.