Ethnographies of (dis)connection: marriage, families, households and homesteads in contemporary communities

Location 104
Date and Start Time 17 May, 2014 at 08:30


Yoko Narisada (Okinawa University) email
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Short Abstract

This panel examines how we dis/connect our relationships through daily practices, rites of passage and legal and economic systems. Contributors ethnographically discuss performative processes of dis/connection in terms of marriage, families, households and homesteads in contemporary communities.

Long Abstract

How do we connect and disconnect human relations through daily practices which consist of marriage, death, fostering, households, homesteads, citizenship and modernization in contemporary societies? Anthropological research has ethnographically shed light on the way in which people build up, have and lose their relationships not only based on biological connection but also based on socio-cultural, legal, political and socio-economic dis/connection. That is to say, it is crucial to see what kind of relations are produced, recognized and broken off and how these relations are contextualized and conceptualized in daily lives. To look at dis/connection as a process makes it possible to grasp various relations as performative and dynamic rather than as static and given. To do so, ethnographies of (dis)connection aim to explore diverse relationships in a wide range of social and cultural contexts.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


An Indonesian "modern" in daily life

Author: Masanori Kaneko (National Institutes of Humanities)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will analyze the grass-roots level of modernization of daily life in Indonesia. For it, this paper focuses on negative human nature like envy and shame, and also relationships with neighbors, family members, and friends. From this case study, we may also seek hints for alternative modern.

Long Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the modernization of daily life in current Indonesia by focus on changes of material objects and motives for changing.

Indonesia is a developing country, and like other developing countries, Indonesia has been economically stratified with large gaps even among rural areas. In recent years, Indonesia becomes one of promising countries for international investment, and the people also enjoying the rapid growth of the economy. Such condition is also accelerating the changes of their way of life from its traditional one.

Their life is also incorporated into the world market economy. Materials used for household utilities, foods, water, and fuels, which are indispensable for to sustain one's life. Traditionally they used wood, bamboo, rattan, clay, and so on which have been existing around their residence, however these are replaced with new materials like plastic, glass, stainless steel, ceramics, and so on, and these are often imported ones. And the fuels are changed from the organic ones to fossil ones or electronics. Rationality, convenience, sanitation, while these positive reasons are often taken as the main motives for modernization, negative human nature like jealousy, envy, greed, and shame also push the progress. Such human feelings are based on the relationship with neighbors, family members, friends, therefore, for to see the modernization, we should focus on such relationships too.

From this case study, we may seek hints for alternative modern.

A study on the bride price and dowry of the Yi people at Liangshan

Author: Weigu Qumu (Southwest University for Nationalities)  email

Short Abstract

This paper studies the types, items, functions, and rules of the bride price and dowry of the Yi people at Liangshan, presenting a case for the study of anthropological understandings of marriage.

Long Abstract

This paper studies the types, items, functions, and rules of the bride price and dowry of the Yi people at Liangshan, presenting a case for the study of anthropological understandings of marriage. The Bride Price and Dowry of the Yi People at Liangshan embodies traditional cultures and value concepts. Of the two marriage sides, the male side establishes the affinity with the female family and wins the acceptance of the society by means of paying the bride price, which functions as a certain tied mechanism for the life and economy of the future husband and wife. Dowry is a confirmation for a stable marriage after getting married. And the marriage of the Yi people is relatively stable at the local region, what significance can be implied for the modern marriage.

Divided by blood quantum: socioeconomic disparity in indigenous Hawaiian society

Author: Masaya Shijo (Tokyo Metropolitan)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will talk about the socioeconomic disparity in Hawaiian homesteads. Hawaiian homesteads appeared in the 1920’s to provide Hawaiians with land. To acquire the land, the residents must meet a blood quantum rule which now divides the Hawaiian society and causes socioeconomic disparity.

Long Abstract

This paper throws light upon the current socioeconomic disparity observed in indigenous Hawaiian society, in particular, Hawaiian Homesteads. Hawaiian Homesteads are the neighborhoods designated especially for indigenous Hawaiians. The program started in the 1920's for the purpose of providing Hawaiians with residential and agricultural land. Since the western arrival in 1778, many of the Hawaiians had been detached from their native land and lived in slum areas.

In order to acquire the right of "a-dollar-land-lease-a-year", the Hawaiian Homestead applicants must meet a 50% indigenous Hawaiian blood requirement, and the rule was defined by the United States government. This rule somehow came to divide the native Hawaiian society and caused socioeconomic disparity today.

Hawaiian Homesteads offer not only land but also several economic benefits such as local tax exemptions to the residents. However, since the program just allows land, only those who are fortunate to have a decent blood quantum and have stable economic backgrounds for the mortgage loans can take on the land. And those who cannot clear the Hawaiian blood ratio or have enough blood but didn't satisfy the economic requirement are to live outside the program. Recent statistics show that the poverty rate of Hawaiian is lower than those of other ethnic groups in Hawaii, such as Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean and White.

Based on a 2-year fieldwork conducted in several Hawaiian Homesteads in the Wai'anae district, the west coast of O'ahu, I will analyze what lies behind the socioeconomic disparity in indigenous Hawaiian society.

New Japanese naming practices: reflecting changes in ideals for children

Author: Giancarla Unser-Schutz (Rissho University)  email

Short Abstract

By looking at parents’ messages to children, I consider how new Japanese names reflect changing ideals. While new names appear burdensome, I suggest that parents may create positive social identities by paying attention to whether the names are easy to say and by selecting kanji with positive images.

Long Abstract

Naming practices in Japan appear to be in transition, with 'traditional' forms like the ending -ko for girls largely out of use. Instead, they are being replaced in popularity by new types of names which manipulate orthography in ways that make them difficult to read (Satō 2007). As Goodenough (1965) describes, naming practices reflect what the giver wishes to emphasize or is concerned about in the receiver's identity, suggesting that these practices relate to changes in parents' desires for their children. By looking at parents' messages to children in one community newsletter, I will consider how new names reflect parents' changing ideals and what kinds of identities are forged through their use. Although Kobayashi (2009) has argued that these naming practices reflect a new currency of uniqueness licensed by lowered consciousness of the public sphere, parents' comments hint at a more nuanced concern about children's social identities, with frequent comments on 'being loved by everyone' and 'being considerate of others' emphasizing outside relationships. These new customs thus appear to have contradictory interpretations: while their use of orthography may present a burden to others, parents' own comments emphasize a strong interest in their children developing positive social relations. Instead of interpreting these naming practices as inconsiderate of others, I will suggest that parents may be attempting to address these concerns in other ways, such as by paying attention that the names are easy to say, and, denotationally, by selecting kanji (Chinese characters) with positive images.

Re/making boundaries and relatedness: shared household living in contemporary Japan and the UK

Author: Yoko Narisada (Okinawa University)  email

Short Abstract

Unlike in the UK, it is not common for people to share a rented house/flat in contemporary Japan. By comparing housing cases in Japan and the UK, this paper explores how people differently re/make boundaries and relatedness through daily lives such as conflicts, negotiation and accommodation.

Long Abstract

It is common for non-married young students and professionals in particular to live on their own in contemporary Japan. This tendency towards individualism in Japanese housing contrasts sharply with the shared household housing culture in the UK where shared housing is quite popular especially among undergraduate and postgraduate students. While shared housing has become fashionable since 2000s in Japan, its number is still limited. In this sense, it is crucial to take a careful look at Japanese contexts of shared housing and to see the differences and similarities between in the UK and Japan.

By comparing these housing cases in Japan and the UK, this paper explores how people differently and similarly re/make boundaries and relatedness between them through their daily sharing lives which inevitably brings about conflicts, negotiation and accommodation in both cases. Through this, it ethnographically aims to re-examine key concepts of housing such as boundaries, relatedness, privacy, the private, the public, individualism, ownership and intimacy and to illuminate the practical and theoretical possibilities of shared household housing. The paper is based on participant observation in rented flats/houses and informal and formal interviews with flat/house sharers in Tokyo, Japan, and in Edinburgh, the UK between 2013 and 2014.

One child can have some parents: a case study of "fosterage" among the Hausa in Nigeria

Author: Ayako Umetsu  email

Short Abstract

A custom of "fosterage" among the Hausa shows that each of "foster parents" and biological parents is socially recognized as children's important parent. It can relativise the modern western views of giving biological parenthood more priority and that parents-child relationship should be only one.

Long Abstract

This presentation analyzes a "fostering" custom called ri'ko among the Hausa in northern Nigeria. In kinship studies of late years, the multiplicity of parent-child is discussed in order to reconsider the modern western views: giving biological parenthood more priority than non-biological parents, e.g. "foster parents", and that parent(s)-child relationship should be only one. However, the discussion is still inadequate to show the importance of each pair of parents. I argue how "foster parents" can be crucial parent figures for children, in addition to that the biological parents can be so, through the research of the custom among the Hausa. I focus on following two points: the relations among "foster" parents, biological parents and their children from the children's early years until their getting married, and those after the children's getting married. First, biological fathers give their children their descent status, which is not affected by "fosterage", then biological parents can meet their children after they are taken out too. Meanwhile, "foster parents" traditionally behave as "guardians" with all responsibilities for their "foster children," and biological parents respect what "foster parents" do for the children. Second, even after marriage, "foster children" continue to communicate with both "foster parents" and biological parents. For example, though a "foster child" is much more familiar with her "foster family" than biological one, she supports her biological parents as their child. Hausa's case clearly illustrates that one child can have multiple parents and each of them are socially recognized as the child's important parent.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.