Accepted Paper:

Autoethnography from the borders of anthropology and Japan: co-constructing narratives of borderland experience among two 'native' female academics  


Yuki Imoto (Keio University)
Tomoko Tokunaga (International Christian University)

Paper short abstract:

As an autoethnographic exploration among two ‘native’ Japanese female academics trained in the US and the UK, this paper delineates the constraints and possibilities of intellectual border crossings, and the place of ‘hybrid’ scholars within the contexts of local anthropologies and Japanese higher education.

Paper long abstract:

Using autoethnography as a method, this paper explores the possibilities and constraints of intellectual border crossings among two Japanese female scholars trained in academic institutions in the US and the UK. Our narrative focuses on the experience of 'return' to Japanese academic contexts and on both the constructions of 'homes' (ibasho) and identities as we navigate across borderlands.

The story begins with our encounter in Tokyo in early 2013, and our subsequent accumulation of dialogue in both academic and non-academic contexts. Finding many commonalities as well as subtle differences in our experiences, interests, and struggles as early-career female returnee academics, we wondered whether such personally therapeutic 'chats' could in fact be expressed as anthropological ethnography. We thus explore the meanings of academic homes and identities through the process of collaborative autoethnography itself. Through dialogic and reflexive writing, we reveal the ways boundaries of language (dilemmas of writing in one or the other language and the problem of readership), academia (entering various academic institutions and acquiring their particular cultural codes), and gender roles, among others, are negotiated.

By reflecting, comparing, narrating, and writing our experiences, we attempt to delineate the constraints and possibilities of the globalizing Japanese higher education context and the place of 'hybrid' scholars within it. At the same time, through the process of 'writing in-between', we explore the potential of collaborative autoethnography, both as liberating and therapeutic workings on the structured self, and as fluid and interactive creations of 'selves' within and through the text.

Panel P058
Reimagining the self and the field in contemporary ethnography: insights from living and researching within and through borders