Deconstructions of the (Japanese) Nation-State in Uehashi Nahoko’s Moribito (Guardian) Series



Publication Details

Kilpatrick, H. & Muta, O. 2013, 'Deconstructions of the (Japanese) Nation-State in Uehashi Nahoko’s Moribito (Guardian) Series', in C. Kelen & B. Sundmark (eds), The Nation in Children’s Literature: Nations of Childhood, Routledge, New York. pp. 81

Additional Publication Information

This book explores the meaning of nation or nationalism in children's literature and how it constructs and represents different national experiences. The contributors discuss diverse aspects of children's literature and film from interdisciplinary and multicultural approaches, ranging from the short story and novel to science fiction and fantasy from a range of locations including Canada, Australia, Taiwan, Norway, America, Italy, Great Britain, Iceland, Africa, Japan, South Korea, India, Sweden and Greece. The emergence of modern nation-states can be seen as coinciding with the historical rise of children's literature, while stateless or diasporic nations have frequently formulated their national consciousness and experience through children's literature, both instructing children as future citizens and highlighting how ideas of childhood inform the discourses of nation and citizenship. Because nation and childhood are so intimately connected, it is crucial for critics and scholars to shed light on how children's literatures have constructed and represented historically different national experiences.


Uehashi Nahoko's ten-volume Guardian fantasy series for young adults (1996- 2008) creates a fantastic medieval world that is both entertaining and intensely political. In reflecting upon a fictitious nation's beginnings, it resonates with some of Japan's well-known legends and sociohistorical imaginings, destabilizing their cultural authority. By exposing the "real" stories and behind-the scenes power plays in an extended kingdom, Moribito questions hegemonic power constructions, deconstructing how cultural myths are made, manipulated, and reinforced by corrupt leaders. In doing so, it presents an unconventional critique of many Japanese ideologies and national institutions, drawing attention to the limitations inherent in dominant understandings of, for instance, Japan's emperor system and power politics, past and present.

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