Early-Career Scholar Forum

Of Text and Bronze: Courtiers, Casters, and Social Status in Medieval Japan

Friday, 25 June 2021 | 12:15 - 13:00 (JST)
Zoom Meeting
  • Paula Curtis Postdoctral Associate, Council on East Asian Studies, Yale University
  • Shirahase Sawako TCJS Director
Event Description

The image of medieval Japan is often that of the warrior, with little attention paid to the producers, traders, and other humdrum individuals that provisioned people of all statuses, from agricultural laborers to emperors and their contemporaries. This talk brings into focus the activities of lower court nobility and metal casting artisan organizations, those who negotiated and supplied the crucial resources that kept elite events and everyday life functioning in premodern society. Focusing on the imperial court reveals how Matsugi Hisanao, a low-ranking courtier, reestablished lapsed patronage relationships with metal casters in the later sixteenth century. His pursuit of transregional business relations with casters and their provincial overlords was built upon a long legacy of economic and social privileges enjoyed by casters as purveyors of goods and services to the elite. And yet, much more than simple laborers, a close examination of caster prerogatives and modes of identification in text about them and metal objects by them reveals the permeability and fluidity of social status in medieval Japanese society, as well as how the labor of some of its least visible figures in and beyond the court were critical to the longevity of its most iconic institutions of authority.

About the Speaker

Dr. Paula R. Curtis is a historian of medieval Japan. She is presently a Postdoctoral Associate and Lecturer in History at Yale University with the Council on East Asian Studies. Her current book project focuses on metal caster organizations from the twelfth to sixteenth centuries and their relationships with elite institutions. She also works on the history of documentary forgery in premodern Japan.