The day after: illness experiences of Minamata disease and some possibilities of multi-layered ethnography (CLOSED - 4)

Shuji Iijima (Kyushu University)
Start time:
16 May, 2014 at 8:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Minamata disease was officially discovered in 1956. It was severe mercury disease which a local chemical factory caused. Although many legendary works have been presented, sufferers insist "Minamata disease never be finished". Our panel wants to share some possibilities of multi-layered ethnography.

Long abstract:

Minamata disease is caused by mercury poisoning due to the release of mercury in the industrial wastewater from Chisso and was officially discovered in 1956. Although many legendary works have been presented by novelists, artists and doctors, and the Japanese government has often used such terms like 'final solution' and 'regeneration', sufferers still insist that 'Minamata disease never be finished'. During the days after Minamata disease struck, everything changed in the Minamata city. Not only did the mercury attack 'patients' but it polluted the entire region around the Shiranui Sea. Through peddlers' routes, contaminated seafood was delivered up in the mountains. All human relationships were wrenched by symptoms, results and effects of the disease. 'How to stay alive' was a question to be answered, especially in the Minamata city. Post 11 March, 2011, Fukushima inhabitants and academics have tried to learn some lessons from the Minamata experience, but the government also appears to have learned how to localize issues such as the Minamata disease. In this presentation, our panel wants to share some possibilities of multi-layered ethnography. Akira Nishimura maps some environmental pollutions in the Kyusyu area. Shuko Hagihara investigates some life histories from the Minamata regions. Kentaro Shimoda focuses on the alternative social movement of specific core sufferers and their supporters. Shuji Iijima examines a specific fisherman's village. Our presentation does not cover the 'possibilities of ethnography itself' but the 'possibilities through ethnography'. Through these works, we hope we can view 'the future of/with anthropologies'.