Session Abstract: With a focus on the relationality of space, subject, and body, this panel suggests that contemporary Japan can best be ethnographically understood in terms of heterotopia. Heterotopias, or spaces of Otherness, lead us away from viewing identity or belonging in determinative or essentialized terms through focusing on moments of crisis or deviation. This Foucauldian concept highlights how assemblages of people, relations, and environments must be viewed in terms of their specificity and particularity, for example locations attract, retain or repel individuals often for highly individualized reasons. Normative assumptions held by society at large are often subverted in heterotopias, but this alterity is not necessarily a protest or contestation, it can function as a mirror image, reflecting back what is present but often unseen from the perspective of origin.
Through this theoretic lens, Klien focuses on urbanites moving to rural areas and how individuals both alter and adapt their relations becoming aware of their social connections inside and outside the community. Omori examines the lives of children in state care in Tokyo and how normative assumptions regarding body or belonging are subverted in institutional care, Hansen looks at subjective notions of health and wellness that govern individual’s differing perceptions of a rural location. Panelists understand heterotopia as an under examined, interdisciplinary and productive concept and we hope to attract researchers focusing on other areas of Asia to this talk in the hope of dialogue and future co-operative research.
Paper Presenter: Paul Hansen – Hokkaido University
Paper Presenter: Susanne Klien – Hokkaido University
Paper Presenter: Hisako Omori – Akita International University