Current Institutional Affiliation
Professor, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University

Award Information

Abe Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Professor, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University
Dynamics of the Social Foundations of Care in the Era of Global Aging: Comparative Study between Industrializing Thailand and Post-Industrrial Japan

This project examines how care for the elderly is practiced in Thailand, a newly industrializing country, as compared to post-industrial Japan. It will study the emerging forms of care in Thailand on multiple levels, from policy and institutional support to on-the-ground practices and cultural values. Studies of welfare, aging and care have tended to focus on the industrialized countries, as the developing world is deemed lagging behind and unworthy of interest. Thailand, a newly industrializing member of ASEAN4, has the second highest ratio of aging population in Southeast Asia. Thus far, there are some studies on state policies and various programs for the elderly in Thailand. However, research on the actual implementation of these programs are few. Fundamentally, there is dearth of understanding on the overall distribution of care labor, from household to family circle, migrant labor, religious set-ups, public institutions, to other community-based undertakings. Rather than simply relegate the Thai case to one of a belated effort to follow the paths of earlier industrialized countries such as our own, an integrated understanding of the case of Thailand will provide an example towards considering the future of other emerging and developing countries. Moreover, we could learn from how the space in between the family and state, that is, the community or civil society has been an effective locus for providing and thinking about care, especially now that we in Japan are seeking alternative possibilities in the community and/or civil society or public sphere. The project will: 1. Map out elderly care as it is practiced in Thailand today. a) Find where, by whom and how care is actually practiced. b) Examine the current policy on social security and its historical development. c) Observe how policies are carried out on the ground and how they are augmented by grounded practices. d) Understand how care is talked about in everyday as well as in political discourse. In other words, gain an integrated understanding of care of the elderly in Thai society today. 2. Inquire what this suggests for the future of care in the developing countries, and consider whether there is an alternative path. 3. Reflect on issues in Japan from the findings above. 4. Reconsider care in human culture and society in the era of global aging and contribute to emerging debates in the anthropology of care, allowing both cross-cultural comparisons of the idea and systems of care, as well as a deeper understanding of the human practice and relationship of care. 5. Inquire what this tells us about Thailand today, the social dynamics, changing cultural values, and political discourses, throwing light on the newly emerging social connectivities and demonstrating what is taking place at the social foundation of Thai society, in the face of rapid demographic and social changes. This is an attempt to respond to the question whether Southeast Asia is following a unique path of modernity, or it is simply following the same paths towards modern family and the postindustrial deterioration as experienced in the industrialized countries.