Current Institutional Affiliation
Lecturer, Anthropology and Religion, Lake Forest College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2006
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Columbia University
The Twenty-first Century Anthropology of Books: Digital Generations, Text Culture, and National Longing in Contemporary Japan

My project examines a contemporary moment of crisis in Japanese culture as the advent of digital communication media technology has not only generated pervasive social anxieties, but also reconfigured the value of analog texts within the imagination of national culture in Japan. My research takes place primarily in what has been a Mecca of analog print culture, the Kanda/Jinbo-cho district of Tokyo. It is the oldest and most expansive antiquarian book retail and wholesale quarter in Japan, which has recently become a spatial and temporal intersection for the old and new media, and the older, analog and younger, digital generations. I will investigate the material and social effects of Japan's rapid technological transition circa 2000 by analyzing: (1) a proliferation of an anxiety-ridden discourse that attributes social problems in Japan to a failing analog writing/reading proficiency and new forms of digital media communication, such as a wireless communication via PDA, laptop, and 3G cellphone; (2) the historical significance of the rediscovery of Kanda/Jinbo-cho, manifesting both a pronounced nostalgia toward 'vanishing' analog text culture and an apparent response to a perceived collapse of national culture; and (3) the emerging poetics and politics of analog writing/reading culture in Kanda/Jinbo-cho as a culturally specific articulation of a technological transition despite the universalizing logic of digital media technology.