Accepted Paper:

Japan within/without East Asia: experimenting with alterity and inclusion  


Gergely Mohacsi (Osaka University)

Paper short abstract:

How might the relations between East Asia and Japan be reconsidered as an open, ethnographic question? This paper will argue against “East Asia” as a cultural unity or a fragmented illusion. Instead, it will look at the propensity of artefacts in order to engage with a pragmatics of scaling.

Paper long abstract:

Along with the growing geopolitical and economic role of East Asia in the world, the question of what constitutes it as a region is gaining unprecedented momentum. Such questions have been inherent in the topics and methods of Japanese anthropology since its emergence as a discipline. From early ethnographic research of Taiwanese aborigines to the detailed studies of Han Chinese social structure and the cultural impact of Buddhism, changing conceptualisations of "East Asia" provided an important context for the development of Japanese anthropology up to more recent reflexive accounts on the colonial politics and poetics of difference. The aim of the present paper is to bring this historically and geographically grounded research into a conversation with a different line of work. Building on innovative methodological approaches at the crossroads of anthropology and science studies on the one hand, and the author's own ethnographic fieldwork in Japan and East Asia, the discussion will highlight the ways in which the propensity of artefacts—medicinal herbs, mushrooms, or hormones—animate innovative scaling between inside and outside, wholes and parts, or similar and different. By shifting the focus from regions to things, the paper will attend to the pragmatics and dynamics of scale. East Asia, it will be argued, is neither a particular unity waiting for the anthropologist to be revealed, nor a fragmented illusion to be explained away by the cultural theorist; it is closer to what Matei Candea calls "arbitrary location," a mode of relation emerging around all sorts of scaling practices.

Panel P018
East Asian anthropology/anthropologies (EAAA panel)