Speaker: Colin P.C. Jones, Reischauer Institute Postdoctoral Fellow (Ph.D. Japanese History, Columbia 2017)
Moderator: Andrew Gordon, Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History, Harvard University
This talk connects the legal history of the Japanese empire to the broader history of legal and social thought in the twentieth century. It examines the design, execution, and long afterlife of the North China Rural Customary Law Survey. Conducted from 1940 to 1944, the survey was unprecedented for the ethnographic approach it took to its subject. Through interviews with Chinese villagers, its researchers sought to uncover the intricate web of customary practices, associational norms, and religious beliefs that coordinated and regulated daily life independently of the state—or what survey’s designer, Suehiro Izutarō, called the “living law.” I trace this concept to its inception in Habsburg Central Europe and show how, through its implementation in northern China, it continues to shape our understanding of East Asian legal systems.