Accepted paper:

Individuals in the anthropology of Japan

Authors:

Lynne Nakano (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the treatment of individuals in the anthropology of Japan, and considers the future of individuals in Japan anthropology. This paper considers examples in which individuals were successfully integrated into anthropological writing about Japan.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores the treatment of individuals in the anthropology of Japan, and considers the future of individuals in Japan anthropology. Perhaps because of the influence of the early ethnography of the Japanese village, Suyemura, written by John Embree, followed by Ruth Benedict's cultural and personality approach with its emphasis on patterns of behavior, individuals are relatively scarce in anthropological writing about Japan. Moreover, Japan is often caught up in larger debates about what it means and symbolizes as the first Asian society to achieve and embody particular milestones such as economic success, a postmodern society, and an aging society. These issues draw attention to structural conditions and historical processes in which individuals play an insignificant part. This paper considers examples in which individuals were successfully integrated into anthropological writing about Japan and considers what made these efforts successful. The paper argues that individuals emerge in anthropological writing when the writer wishes to draw the reader into the feelings, angst, or suffering of the people described, and considers the advantages and disadvantages of such writing strategies. The paper also addresses difficulties faced by the speaker in incorporating individuals in her own writing and reflects on the future of individuals in Japan anthropology.

panel P029
The individual in anthropology: a future paradigm in anthropology?