Michael Thomas Abele

 Michael Abele

Contact Information

309 Gregory Hall
M/C 466
Urbana, IL 61801
Graduate student
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Research Interests

  • Japan
  • East Asia
  • Race and Ethnicity

Research Description

My dissertation uses changing notions ofproperty to analyze the formation, transformation, and dissolution of outcaste statusfrom the late medieval period to the end of the nineteenth century. During theTokugawa period (1600-1868), outcastes had a status-based right to all deadlivestock in their communities. Originally established to provide outcasteswith a steady stream of raw materials to produce military gear, this controlover carcasses also gave outcastes a monopoly on leather production. By thelate eighteenth century, the revenue generated from the commercial productionof leather enabled outcaste village elites to relegate the dirty work ofskinning to subordinates. As a result, disenfranchised outcaste villagers beganto collaborate with peasant cattle traders to circumvent this system ofstatus-based rights, and sell carcasses as their own property. In the drive toacquire more cattle skins, some outcastes began to secretly – and illegally –slaughter cattle for their hides. In doing so, these outcaste villagers notonly undermined the status-based conception of property by treating carcassesas private property, but also developed the skills necessary for beefproduction. When beef consumption became popular in the late nineteenth centuryas a sign of Westernization, former outcastes were already prepared to meetthis demand with Osaka’s first slaughterhouse.

Distinctions / Awards

  • Japan Foundation Fellowship for Doctoral Candidate, 2014