Accepted Paper:

Betwixt and between JA: Japan, Jamaica, and the will to employment  


Paul Hansen (Hokkaido University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses the employment situation for non-Japanese anthropologists working in Japan. It traces the author’s decision to focus fieldwork outside of Japan in Jamaica and highlights the challenges, triumphs and hopes that underlie this move.

Paper long abstract:

Anthropology in Japan maintains a close historical connection with folkloristics (minzokugaku); an area studies paradigm rooted in the study of local tales, traditions and rituals in Japan or its former colonies. Moreover, for reasons largely related language and location, the majority of foreign anthropologists working in Japanese universities have focused their pre-employment research on Japan. By and large, they usually continue this trajectory once employed in Japan. While this situation sometimes creates frictions over contested anthropological interpretations regarding the host country, it often buttresses many tacit and normative agreements in regard to the production of domestic, or better domesticated ethnographic knowledge. Nevertheless, from Japan to Jamaica neo-liberal free-trade practices such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership shape the lives of agriculturalists. In short, farmers the world over have many common concerns. However, within the confines of domestic anthropological practice in Japan, one is ever-pressured to focus on the 'uniqueness' of Japanese experience over the trans-national and universal experiences of particular agriculturalists. This paper is an auto-ethnographic account of what happens when a foreign anthropologist opts out of the Japan-centric discourse and decides to focus on cosmopolitan themes and not location.

Panel P124
Bounded fieldsites, mobile concepts, flexible anthropologists