Current Institutional Affiliation
Senior Visiting Fellow and Guest Teacher, Anthropology, University of London / London School of Economics and Political Science

Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Senior Lecturer, Anthropology, Oxford Brookes University
Organizing Globalization: Anthropologies of Cross-Cultural Relations in Japanese Corporations

In attempting to expose the contemporary forces of globalization through anthropological engagement with the intimacies of day-to-day activity, I regard ethnographic examination of social relations within organizations as an especially fruitful frame of reference. The goal of my research is to provide significant insight into the nature and analysis of ‘globalization’ through the examination of Japanese organizational contexts abroad, with specific focus on Japanese persons and their interactions with non-Japanese. That is, methodologically the approach shifts the locus of Japanese organizations away from their familiar spatial, cultural and institutional “home” context and asks, “in overseas settings, how are the distinctive organizational and communicative forms upon which Japanese corporate practices evidently depend, combined with those of local, non-Japanese staff, who hold their own distinctive organizational (cum cultural) inclinations, who speak no Japanese, and who, unlike their Japanese colleagues, have diverse educational and technical backgrounds and varied work experiences before joining the Japanese firm?“ Based in earlier ethnographic work at Japanese firms in Thailand and France, research in a US-based Japanese factory is proposed here, as well as a “base-line” confirmation of conditions at the central, home site factory in Japan. We will then ask, “how, and why, are those Japanese forms combined differently depending on the local, host society?” The research project proposed for an Abe Fellowship will bring to fruition a major comparative, transnational, ethnographic-based and longitudinally-rich study of social relations and cross-cultural change in Japanese corporations. The proposed research project – drawing together extensive, long term, ethnography-based and directly comparative material – is methodologically unique in terms of scale and content in anthropology. It should grant analysis of a core feature of our contemporary modern social landscape – cross-cultural organizations – a higher level of subtlety and sophistication than the common problems and conflicts thrown up by cross-relations relations have enjoyed to date, while in Japanese Studies enhance our thinking about both organizational practices and cross-cultural relations among the Japanese.