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IUAES 2013: Evolving Humanity, Emerging Worlds. 5-10 August 2013.

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Evolving humanity, emerging worlds

Manchester, UK; 5th-10th August 2013

(PE52)

Observing the disaster and/or participating in the aftermath: Exploring the role of anthropologists and the potential of an anthropological perspective on the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Location Roscoe 3.4
Date and Start Time 06 Aug, 2013 at 09:00

Convenor

Hiroki Takakura (Tohoku University) email
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Short Abstract

The disruption caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami has not abated but still continues. The purpose of this panel is to share the anthropological understandings of the socio-cultural effects in order to explore both academic and practical ways of collaboration.

Long Abstract

The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (GEJET) continues to have an impact on the world. The magnitude of the earthquake, the powerful sweep of the tsunami, and the desperate accident at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima created a disaster of massive scale. While the material reconstruction of the inner urban areas has been successfully implemented, the ties of many local communities in the rural coastal region even now remain ruptured. The nuclear plant disaster forced a tremendous number to relocate from their homes. Uncertainty about the future in the face of the radioactivity is psychologically damaging, and its economic and cultural effects are now increasing. The disruption caused by the GEJET has not abated but still continues. The purpose of this panel is to present some anthropological understandings of these extensive socio-cultural effects and to exchange views in order to evaluate the role of anthropologists in response to the disaster. Another important task is to provide an opportunity to meet the anthropologists who are engaged with or are observing the aftermath. Through the panel, I will explore the possibility of collaboration both in academic and practical senses.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Diversifying the Risk of Tsunami by Utilising the Varied Characters of the Local Sea: Reasoning the Victims' Return to the Coast after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (GEJET).

Author: Kyoko Ueda (Tohoku Gakuin University)  email
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Short Abstract

Why do people opt to continuously live where they are prone to natural disasters instead of living at a distance from the coastline? Especially for those who have just experienced the tsunami of the Great East Japan Earthquake, what motivates them to make the decision to go back to the coast? This paper quests for their reasoning by looking at how the fishing villagers diversify the risk of tsunami by utilising the varied characters of the local sea.

Long Abstract

Even after a natural disaster of tremendous scale occurs, some victims attempt to remain or later return "home" while inviting the risk of experiencing further catastrophe. As reported worldwide, the Great Tohoku Earthquake brought about a large-scale tsunami which inflicted devastating damage on the inhabitants of fishing villages along the Pacific coast of the Tohoku area. The Sanriku-region, situated in a seismically active area, has repeatedly incurred serious damage from tsunami. Hence even the tsunami that occurred on March 11, 2011 was actually not an unprecedented event in history. So why do people opt to continuously live where they are prone to natural disasters instead of living at a distance from the coastline? Especially for those who have just experienced the tsunami, what motivates them to make the decision to go back to the coast?

The purpose of this paper is to clarify why people continuously live in places where a specific natural disaster comes with such apparent frequency. In particular, this paper refers to the case of a coastal area called Sanriku where tsunami have recurrently hit at least every 40 years for the last 115 years, including the one caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake. In such a region, this paper quests for the "rationality" of the fishing-villagers tenacity to the coast by looking at their strategy to survive by utilize the varied characters of their local sea.

Subsistence and religion in the Oshika Peninsula after the March 11 East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami disaster

Author: Mikako Yamaguchi (Gifu University)  email
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Short Abstract

After the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (GEJET), I have undertaken fieldwork in the Oshika Peninsula in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. Here I have examined subsistence and religion in the Oshika Peninsula and have analyzed the association between 33 different villages in two districts.

Long Abstract

The Pacific coastal area of the Tohoku region suffered from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (GEJET) and the subsequent contamination by radioactive material. The people of Oshika Peninsula in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, which lies in this area, have a long tradition of subsistence based on rich marine resources. Even after suffering great losses in the GEJET disaster, many residents felt that they could not live elsewhere and have tried to reconstruct their lives in the same area. I had a connection with whalers in Ayukawa-hama, a village of the Oshika Peninsula, where I conducted a research survey for my master's thesis (2002-2003). I returned to this area after GEJET to undertake fieldwork focusing on subsistence and religion. Subsistence represents the physical relationship between people and the land, and religion represents the spiritual ties between the people of Oshika and also those between the people and the land. Therefore, it was expected that research focusing on subsistence and religion would help to identify the characteristics of both the people and the land. Through this fieldwork, I have discovered that each of the 33 villages of the Oshika Peninsula has its own shrine and folkway, and that these villages have formed two different districts (Omote-hama, Ura-hama), based on their geological, ecological, and cultural conditions.

To Continue or Not? : Dispersed Community and Ritual Revival after Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Author: Toshiaki Kimura (Tohoku University)  email
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Short Abstract

What does the community ritual they used to hold mean for the people who lost their community by unimaginable power of disaster? In this paper, I try to examine ritual function and unfunction in post disaster society by exploring the process to revive a unique large-scale festival in a community located in pacific coastal area of Miyagi prefecture.

Long Abstract

This paper discusses the conditions of Japanese society after The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (GEJET) with special reference to the ritual activity. It is well known that ritual activity could function to reinforce social tie and revive community life after disaster. However, we should not look over the fact that not all of the communities would be restored after the great disaster like GEJT. Actually some communities were utterly devastated and are planned to be relocated by the government. What does the community ritual they used to hold mean for the people who lost their community?

In this paper, I try to examine ritual function and unfunction in post disaster society by exploring the process to revive a festival in a community in pacific coast of Miyagi prefecture that was badly damaged by GEJT. All over the area were flooded, buildings collapsed and more than 10% of residents killed. Now, following the local government's relocation policy, most of the residents are considering to move outside of the area because of the terrible memory of Tsunami. On the other hand, some people are starting to think to revive their unique large-scale ritual (Oshiogori) held once every 20 years in order to bath an object of worship brought from Shinto Shrine 50km afar into pacific ocean. I will explore the whole process of this ritual revival and analyze its meaning for the local people and community.

Lessons from anthropological projects related to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami: Reviewing what we did from afar, and some thoughts on social engagement

Author: Hiroki Takakura (Tohoku University)  email
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Short Abstract

What effects do anthropological disaster projects have on affected communities? This paper addresses this question by focusing on my personal experience with the March 11th Japan Earthquake. In describing my three projects, I evaluate them in terms of methodology and consider the responsibility.

Long Abstract

The effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (GEJET) are still being felt, not only in Japan but around the world. The author is an anthropologist and a GEJET survivor who lives and works in Miyagi, a region close to the epicenter of the GEJET. Many scientific projects and social programs have been implemented after the disaster. The responses of anthropologists reflect their own form of activism. What effects have anthropological disaster projects had on the affected region and its communities? This examination has now become a critical task. This paper addresses this question from the perspective of my personal experience. First I outline tendencies and features of anthropological projects and programs, in comparison to those of other scientific disciplines. Then I describe my own three projects related to GEJET: the organization of a social meeting for local anthropologists (15 05 2011), the recording of personal experiences of people who studied or worked at, or accidentally visited, Tohoku University in Miyagi (08 05 2011 - 11 03 2012), and the documentation of the damage to folk cultural assets in the Miyagi coastal area (01 11 2011 - present). Reviewing these projects from afar in terms of otherness, I evaluate them with some reflection and present new findings on anthropological methodology. Finally I offer thoughts on the social responsibility and appropriate role of anthropologists in both stricken and unaffected areas.

What is the"Public" in stricken area?: Differences between the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami(GEJET),and the Great Hanshin Earthquake(GHE).

Author: Hiroki Okada (Kobe University)  email
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Short Abstract

I discuss anthropological approaches to natural disaster. Based on a comparative view between the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami(GEJET)and, I examine the validity of fieldwork, which is a traditional way of Anthropological research, and the possibility of anthropological contribution to the aftermath survey of natural disaster.

Long Abstract

The GEJET and The GHE are two big disasters on Japan after WWⅡ. I will ask beginning by what the concept of the"public" in stricken areas is and how anthropologists could contribute to the "public"? Let me start a simple observation about community. The reason for focusing on community is that it has been acknowledged that local community is the basis of the "public" domain, where volunteer activities such as NPOs have been activity engaged. So, I will compare the GHE with the GEJET, focusing on activities in suffering local communities, we see some important differences in (1) the structure of community; (2) the changes in community, which the disaster brought about; and (3) the reconstruction of community. Today, even local a natural disaster tends to be considered as national tragedy: the disaster's images, along with those of refugees, are disseminated through the national media, and may converge with nationalism. As compared to the GHE, this national framework is particularly apparent after the GEJET. But neither public space nor public responsibility is segmented only by the national framework. There may be a tense relationship between community and national framework, particularly in the case of natural disaster. The anthropologist will be to examine whether and how community can be rebuilt, something to which they must pay extremely close attention by producing the "public" at the community level and the local society, not at the nation-state level.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Sponsors

Wenner-Gren Visit Manchester ASA RAI Manchester University