Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor's Name

Matthew Marr

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Mitzi Carter

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Dennis Wiedman

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Sukumar Ganapati

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Buraku people, Burakumin, museums, identity, Japan, content analysis, caste

Date of Defense



Members of the Buraku minority group in contemporary Japan are traditionally perceived as descendants of outcaste communities who performed work deemed impure according to Shinto and Buddhist taboos in Japan’s caste system during the Tokugawa Era (1603-1867). After receiving emancipation in 1871, they continued to experience severe discrimination. Following successful activism culminating in government-issued affirmative action “special measures” funding beginning in 1969, Buraku people have now approached social and economic parity with mainstream Japanese. Partially due to these successes, the Buraku Liberation League, the largest Buraku rights organization in the country, has now embraced a new globalized, UN-centric Buraku identity that situates the Buraku equality movement amongst those of other caste-based minorities.

During the special measures programs of the 1990s, many Buraku communities established human rights and/or professions museums to educate the populace on Buraku discrimination while performing a reclaimed Buraku identity centering on pride in the role of Buraku professions in Japanese state-building. This project examines how Buraku identity is currently performed in those museums in light of the evolving globalized Buraku collective memory.

A qualitative content analysis was performed on the websites, handouts, and publications of five different museums in various regions of Japan. Data were triangulated through fieldwork and interviews. Three main themes emerged from this analysis. First, all five museums were strongly rooted in their local communities but engaged with these communities using different mechanisms. Second, while two museums demonstrated evidence of embracing the global turn in the Buraku movement, three museums appeared to reject it. Finally, while all of the museums discuss discrimination as a salient aspect of Buraku identity, the museums in western Japan locate the root of the discrimination as stigmatized space while those in Tokyo identify pollution ideology associated with traditional Buraku professions as the source of the discrimination.

This study assists in elucidating for museums some of the challenges inherent in constructing a cohesive narrative within a social minority group with an uncertain and contested master narrative. In addition, this dissertation adds to research methodology literature by synthesizing the qualitative content analysis literature and creating stepwise instructions for its use.




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