Award Information

Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Ethnic Studies
Tabling Death: Life Insurance in Modern Japan, 1881-1973

In this project, I will revise my dissertation on the histo1y of life insurance into a book manuscript. Through life insurance, I analyze the objectification and commodification of life and labor in modern Japan. Life insurance highlights the innovations in scientific and management practices (the science of statistics and marketing) that helped to transform life into a commodity in modern Japan. Statistics brought individual lives together in an aggregate social body. Company officials and government bureaucrats could then act on this aggregate social body innovel ways. Government officials, for example, tried to use life insurance to forestall radical calls for labor agitation in the 1910s. This project, moreover, highlights the simultaneous role played by utopic hope and fear of uncertainty in inciting consumer desire for life as a commodity. I will also begin a second project on the history of birth defects in prewar Japan.