Writing Sample One

Written March 10, 2017

Brian McVeigh. 1997. Life in a Japanese Women’s College: Learning to be Ladylike. London: Routledge.

The general blurb of the book is:

One third of the Japanese female workforce are ‘office ladies’ and their training takes place in the many women’s junior colleges. Office ladies are low-wage, low-status secretaries who have little or no job security.
Brian J. McVeigh draws on his experience as a teacher at one such institution to explore the cultural and social processes used to promote ‘femininity’ in Japanese women. His detailed and ethnographically-informed study considers how the students of these institutions are socialized to fit their future dual roles of employees and mothers, and illuminates the sociopolitical role that the colleges play in Japanese society as a whole.

Taken from Amazon’s website, which list’s the book’s records/details in full.

Purpose of this piece:

I wrote a critic on McVeigh’s work, and I focused on critiquing the following pages: 119-145. McVeigh provides a personable experience of colleges for women only in Japan that depicts a school life that seems almost untouchable and relative to private schools in many Anglo-Western education systems. These are my own critics about his book on Japanese women’s colleges. I wrote this piece critiquing an issue of this “I-me” psychological idiom, or rather ideology or thought, which felt inconclusive and did not fully portray women and their lives inside and outside of the women’s colleges. I am come from a background that specializes in humanities and social sciences approaches along with blending methodologies together as expected of a student earning a degree in an interdisciplinary program.

Brian McVeigh discusses the practice and experience of students at a Japanese women’s college, Takasu University. His research is from only one women’s college, but he includes previous scholarship on theories surrounding on the conception and formation of the body and mind along with figures and statistics from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan. McVeigh wrote a chapter on ‘Ceremonies of culture in a culture of ceremony” in which where he analyzes three school events: entrance examinations, Sport Festa and School Festival, and a yearly Christmas party. These events were hosted and supported by Takasu University in some manner that McVeigh discloses throughout this chapter of his book. McVeigh presents “events and practices that are less grandiose, but nevertheless socialize students” (McVeigh, 119). Particularly interesting was McVeigh’s details on the process of the entrance examination and lists the chronological stages students go through when entering this exam process (121). Much less expected were the inserts of North American school systems alongside with the details of Takasu’s entrance exam. Especially noteworthy was the heavy involvement on part of the administration and staff that further added to McVeigh’s argument over how ritualistic schools are in Japan.

Of great concern was “I-me” mode of self-presentation that McVeigh consistently injects in this chapter and the book. McVeigh states that the mind/body are shaped in the experiences people have daily. McVeigh presents an important discussion of how people perform publicly and privately. McVeigh argument on mode of self-presentation and the mind/body is difficult to place in context of student experience, especially within the interview stage of entrance exams. The reason being that interviews are highly constructed and manipulated by both active parties. These interviews have a high amount of bias because of its highly manipulated and practiced rituals found in this type of social environment. While interviews might possible outliers in McVeigh’s discussion on the practices, experiences, and socializes students receive, McVeigh conveys how students experience, socialize, and participate with the school from professor, administration, and among other students through each description and analysis of each school event, McVeigh has written a compelling argument for how students are socialized through these school events and practices; however, as McVeigh mentioned before, other researchers will find discrepancies because McVeigh’s research is singularly focused on one women’s college. Since McVeigh only did his field research within one women’s college and not multiple, his arguments on the socialization of students may only extend so far physically and theoretically from Takasu University.