Kevin L. Gouge

  • Fellowship year:2017-2018
  • University: Univeristy of Michigan
  • Dissertation Topic/Category: East Asia- Medieval Japan
  • Dissertation Title: The Ties That Bind: Kinship, Inheriance, and the Environment in Medieval Japan
  • This dissertation investigates and compares two warrior kin groups from Japan's medieval period (12th-16th C.) using documentary and enviromental analysis. Called the Nakano/ Ichikawa and the Nejime, these two groups formed and modified their social identities in response to particular environmental, economic, and political/military imperatives, which led to their individual and often disparate social configurations. I test these cases against each other and against broader discourses on family and kinship, both within the field of Japanese history and through comparisons with examples from outside Japan.
    The case studies utilized in this dissertation add valuable insight into the nature of kinship. The disparate histories that form the foundation of my analysis help us to take a more nuanced approach to the nature of social change, and lead me to refine systemic views of Japan's warrior class in light of the flexibility and variability evident across its diverse population. I contend that warrior "family" was a fluid and dynamic institution that defies broad categorization. Instead, I argue that warrior kin groups formed and reformed opportunistically and survived the chaos of the medieval period due to their adaptability, which was the primary feature of medieval warrior kinship.