Accepted paper:

Investigating life histories: communicating messages from the past

Authors:

Shuko Hagihara (Kumamotogakuen University)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation investigates the life histories of two victims of the Minamata disease incident. In examining their surprising narratives and messages, we try to identify some aspects of investigating life histories from the perspective of transmitting messages from the past to the future.

Paper long abstract:

This presentation investigates the life histories of two victims of the Minamata disease incident, which has captured the attention of novelists, medical practitioners, supporters, and activists (including victims themselves) for the last 50 years. One notable example of the latter is the Club of the Original Vow (Hongan-no-kai), a loosely organized affiliation of victims of Minamata disease who pray for the salvation of the souls lost to organic mercury and relate their own experiences. Their efforts have influenced people to question the effects of modern industrialization—more recently, for example, after the Fukushima incident of March 2011. In this presentation, we focus on two members of this club: both are fishers who are not only victims of Minamata disease but also activists and storytellers. One member withdrew his application for certification as a Minamata disease patient, stating that to accept responsibility for Minamata disease meant to share the pain one caused another; he also told he carried Cisso within his: he would have behaved exactly as they did if he had worked for Chisso. The other member, whose entire family contracted Minamata disease, described the disease as nusari—a gift. How did such surprising narratives and messages emerge from these people's experiences as victims of Minamata disease, and why do their messages appeal to us? In examining these questions, we try to identify some aspects of investigating life histories from the perspective of transmitting messages from the past to the future.

panel P014
The day after: illness experiences of Minamata disease and some possibilities of multi-layered ethnography (CLOSED - 4)