Resilience, agency and activism: Viewing Yoshiko Yamaguchi through the feminist life course perspective

Alison Luke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The low number of female politicians in Japan is testament to the difficulties that women face in entering the political sphere. This paper analyses the life of Japanese actress, journalist, politician and activist Yoshiko Yamaguchi (1920-2014), in terms of her political career, to contribute to a deeper understanding of the way personal choices and characteristics, socioeconomic factors, macrosocial contexts and chance events shape life paths and possibilities. As a Japanese woman in Japan-occupied Manchuria, Yoshiko developed a unique cross-cultural identity and understanding which facilitated her movement through transnational spaces and her adaptability as she renegotiated her identity within different contexts. Yoshiko is a distinctive example as she successfully drew on these experiences to achieve her political goals of raising awareness about human rights issues and the harms of conflict. This paper suggests that women can enact agency within the political sphere but that few are able to do so effectively because they lack access to resources and opportunities through which to realise their political goals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-21
Number of pages11
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • autonomy
  • feminism
  • Japan
  • politics
  • Yoshiko Otaka
  • Yoshiko Yamaguchi


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