Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2019
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anxious Care: Radioactive Uncertainty and the Politics of Life in Post-Nuclear Japan

Since the Fukushima meltdown of 2011 in Japan, residents have gone back to business as usual, living with a raised standard of radiation exposure in a public where the subject is silenced. But this normal life sits uneasily with parents raising children there. While doubts about long-term effects of radiation have continued to date, children's health has become a problem for parents, post-nuclear politics, and future imaginaries in Japan. This research concerns (re)production of life after the meltdown by investigating what I call "anxious care" as it is practiced by parents, and those who support them, to raise healthy children amidst low-level radiation with little official assistance. What constitutes "life" when living continues in a compromised environment? Who is responsible for caring for whom in this crisis of indeterminate duration? And what are the political and ethical implications of a reproductive futurism taking place around a child imperiled by radiation? Asking these questions in a long-term fieldwork, I will explore the work of making children live against and within radiation in both Fukushima and Tokyo, looking to consider the radical implications of caring for children in environmental uncertainty. I will examine the strategies of living with radiation adopted by parents in irradiated homes, the un/official debates surrounding low-level radiation, and forms of sociality taking shape through anxious caregiving. Drawing on anthropological approaches to environmental exposure, feminist approaches to care, Japanese political economy, and critical studies on futurity and hope, this research foregrounds reproductivity of actual families and the family form to contemplate post-nuclear life amidst radiation as a condition of living. Such research, I propose, will contribute to an understanding of not only the dynamics of post-nuclear life in Fukushima and Japan, but also, a future where reproduction will face increasing environmental uncertainty.