Ethnographies of 3.11 Memorialization

Friday June 28th (1pm-5pm) Sophia University, bldg. 10, room 301
Abstracts are not in the order of appearance


Personal, Local and National Narratives of Reflection, Recollection, and Representation Surrounding Tōhoku, Japan’s 3.11 Disaster
Millie Creighton, University of British Columbia, Canada and National Ethnological Museum, Japan

In this paper, I explore differences in representing and commemorating 3.11 by people and communities experiencing the disaster as Tōhoku’s tragedy, and national narratives of it as Japan’s disaster, including differential connotations of campaigns to “gambaru” (persevere). I explore personal, community or municipality responses in three hard hit areas: Sendai, Fukushima, and Ishinomaki. I examine spontaneous memorials in Ishinomaki created by paper wrapping buildings and space, resulting in ‘graffiti zones’ allowing people to express their thoughts and feelings. I will also look at the ‘Fukushima Project’ and ‘Fukushima Folk Jamboree,’ organized by Fukushima residents, calling for Fukushima dwellers to determine Fukushima’s future after the nuclear meltdown. Finally, I discuss the Sendai “Wasuren!” (Don’t Forget!) center to document memories of the disaster’s survivors, based on the assertion that unless what happened is conveyed by those in the place that experienced its reality, it cannot be conveyed. I compare the significance of this center with national narratives seeming to reflect something else, and the merging of reconstruction or ‘re-building Japan’ with narratives of ‘returning Japan’ to a former prominence (prior to the disaster). As part of this I also address the national “tokubetsu zei” (special tax) imposed from January 2013, stated as for Tōhoku reconstruction, with reports of the funds first usages.

Millie Creighton is an anthropologist and Japan specialist based in the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She was one of the founders of the Centre for Japanese Research at UBC and continues to serve as a Director on its Executive Management Board, along with that of the Centre for Korean Research. She has done extensive research in Japan on department stores, consumerism, tourism, popular culture, gender, minorities, work and leisure, place, nostalgia, identity, and performance forms, along with work on social marginality of people and places. She was awarded the Canon Prize for her analysis of contemporary Japanese identity and nostalgia as reflected through department store retailing and other forms of consumerism. She is currently involved in both a collective research project and an individual one looking at the 3.11 disaster, its aftermath, and reconstruction policy initiatives in relationship to issues of diversity.


Fixity and Circulation of Memory Objects: Family Photo Albums Lost in the Waves
David H. Slater, Sophia University

The tsunami crisis of Northern Japan was probably the most minutely documented disaster in history. But some images were also lost, including the hundreds of thousands of family photo albums that were washed away by the tsunami. Almost immediately, photo collection and restoration projects emerged all over Japan. This talk addresses the various issues that have been raised therein, including the anxiety, ambivalence and obligation that surround the uncontrolled circulation and handling of other people’s photos; the pictures’ role in the formulation of loss, creation of hope and discharge of duty; and more speculatively, the interpretive challenges these pictures pose to representing a rural and family imaginary now very much gone.

David H. Slater is the director of the Institute of Comparative Culture and associate professor of cultural anthropology and Japanese studies at Sophia University. His research has been on capitalism, youth culture and urban space. After March 2011, his publications include “HOT SPOTS: 3.11 POLITICS IN DISASTER JAPAN,” as a special issue of Cultural Anthropology and 東日本大震災の人類学: 津波、原発事故と被災者たちの「その後」(Jinbunshoin), co-edited with Tom Gill and Brigitte Steger. He is currently working on a book project entitled Unstable Work and Alternative Politics in Precarious Times and directing the “Tohoku Voices” project, a collecting video oral narratives from the affected areas.


Memorizing Our Disaster: A Note on Commemorative Objects of the Tsunami
Kimura Shuhei, University of Tsukuba

Two years after 3.11 disaster, two commemorative objects were separately placed in a small town in Iwate. The larger item is a sundial-shaped stone, resting in front of a train station as a symbol for the disaster. This monument is open to the public, offering an explicit message seen in a passage inscribed on it., Simultaneously, however, this stone binds local actions and connections to its place. The other is a set of wooden stakes, raised silently near a set of local houses. Although the message they convey is minimum, the stakes are embedded in the landscape and programed to cause local actions. Following the contrasting processes which brought these items into shape, I will examine in what sense each of the commemorations make the disaster a “social” memory. Based on my observation, I will attempt to elucidate how, what, and whose memory is put into them. My hope of this presentation is to provide a critical viewpoint to the sudden rise of “aakaivu” (archive) related with natural disaster in Japan.

Shuhei Kimura is assistant professor of cultural anthropology at the University of Tsukuba. He obtained a Ph.D. degree from the Department of Anthropology, the University of Tokyo in 2008. His research interests include temporalities of disaster, anthropology on/for public, and infrastructures related with environmental risk. Based on his dissertation research on disaster preparedness in Turkey, he published a monograph Public Anthropology of Earthquake in 2013 (Sekaishisosha). He is currently conducting research on post-tsunami reconstruction in Iwate. Among his publications are ‘Lessons from the Great East Japan Earthquake’ in Asian Anthropology 11, 2012 and ‘Reorganization of Social Orders after the Tsunami’ in Bunkajunruigagu: Japanese Journal of Cultural Anthropology 78(1), 2013.


Memorials, Cemeteries and Social Reconstruction in Post-Tsunami Miyagi
Sébastien Penmellen Boret, Tōhoku University, Japan

This paper investigates how the Memorialization of the dead might form a basis for the social recovery of communities devastated by the 3.11 disasters. In order to deal with the trauma and loss from the disaster, communities in Tōhoku have developed various modes of memorialising the event and its victims through tangible (memorial monuments) and intangible (ceremonies) acts of remembrance. In order to begin to understand these processes, this paper presents ethnographic research carried out on annual commemorative rituals and the edification of public memorial monuments for the dead in the cities of Higashimatsushima (Nobiru) and Natori (Yuriage), Miyagi. In particular, this discussion compares the Memorialization practices led by a Buddhist temple, a city office and an association of mourners. Drawing on this examination, this paper concludes with a tentative statement about the politics surrounding the commemorations of the dead where communal, religious and governmental organizations intersect.

Sébastien Penmellen Boret holds an M.Phil. in Social Anthropology from the University of Oxford and a PhD in Anthropology from Oxford Brookes University. He is currently a JSPS post-doctoral fellow at Tōhoku University where he leads a project on the politics of memorialization in the reconstruction of post-Tsunami Japan in which he examines the concepts and roles of memory, religion and the state. Boret is the author of Japanese Tree Burial: Kinship, Ecology and Death (Routledge 2013). Boret has taught at Oxford Brookes University, Rigas Stradina University (Latvia) and the University of Oxford.


Materializing Memories
Isao Hayashi, National Museum of Ethnology

Isao Hayashi is associate professor of anthropology at the Research Center for Cultural Studies, National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka. His research has focused on natural disaster management and dreams in the Bedamuni, Sissano, and Strickland-Bosavi areas of Papua New Guinea. He received his MA in anthropology from Rikkyo University.



Marilyn Ivy is professor of anthropology at Columbia University. She is the author of a number of works concerned with modernity in Japan and the question of culture. Her book Discourses of the Vanishing: Modernity, Phantasm, Japan won the Hiromi Arisawa Memorial Award in 1996. She has published essays on Japanese folklorism, neonationalism and criminality, contemporary art and youth, photography and marginality, and theories of mass culture. She is currently working on a book about aesthetics and politics in the post-3.11 present.

Ellen Schattschneider is a sociocultural anthropologist specializing in psychoanalytic, phenomenological and practice approaches to culture. She has strong ethnographic interests in East Asia, especially Japan. She received undergraduate training in philosophy, psychology and anthropology at Sarah Lawrence College, and graduate training in anthropology at the University of Chicago. Her principal ethnographic work has been conducted in the Tsugaru region of northern Tōhoku, in southern Kyushu, in Okinawa, and in Micronesia. Dr. Schattschneider's academic writings give particular attention to ritual performance, gender and embodiment, spirit mediumship, sacred landscapes, visuality and the power of images, popular religious experience and comparative capitalist cultures.