Medieval Japanese peasants, fishermen, craftsmen, merchants and other provincial residents have to a large degree remained in the shadows cast by the momentous events of wars and political changes. However, their silence belies their activism and organizational developments. Through wars and peace, autocratic and weak rulers, natural disasters and technological innovations, rural communities had to operate within changing judiciary and political landscapes, most often without effective protection by the state. The daily management of the countryside was rarely of much concern for central powers who left the local communities with much wiggle room for developing autonomous organizations to manage their own safety and prosperity. The general absence of any centrally appointed law enforcement agents did not, however, result in rampant violence or lawless chaos. In this talk I will discuss how rural populations in medieval Japan dealt with conflicts and maintained order and security in such an environment and how this may change the way we look at medieval Japanese society.
Dr. Oxenbell is Assistant Professor in East Asian Languages and Cultures at Indiana University. He is an expert in Japanese medieval violence, exploring multiple social and cultural meanings of violence and conflict from the belief that they can raise new questions about the role and status of violence today. He has studied non-governmental violent actors and their significance for state formations and the development of conflict mediation strategies between centers and peripheries. Aside from conflict studies, Oxenboell examines premodern political and social history, the culture of violence, martial suicide, and early modern Japanese visions of the medieval past.