Asian Studies, Ethnography, Japanese Studies

Japan Copes with Calamity

Gill et al. coverThis book is the first collection of ethnographies in English on the Japanese communities affected by the giant Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011 and the ensuing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. It brings together studies by experienced researchers of Japan from field sites around the disaster zone. The contributors present the survivors’ struggles in their own words: from enduring life in shelters and temporary housing, through re-creating the fishing industry, to rebuilding life-ways and relationships bruised by bereavement. They contrast the sudden brutal loss of life from the tsunami with the protracted anxiety about exposure to radiation and study the battle to protect children, family and a way of life from the effects of destruction, displacement and discrimination. The local communities’ encounters with volunteers and journalists who poured into Tohoku after the disaster and the campaign to win compensation from the state and nuclear industry are also explored. This volume offers insights into the social fabric of rural communities in north-eastern Japan and suggests how the human response to disaster may be improved in the future.


«Well referenced in anthropology theory and history, Japan Copes with Calamity goes to the core of practical and theoretical concerns in disaster study and substantially advances the field.» (Susanna M. Hoffman, co-editor of Catastrophe and Culture)
«An ‘urgent ethnography’ of Japan’s response to the 3.11 disasters. Engaged in the recovery effort since its earliest stages, the authors have produced a significant study based on the voices of the people affected.» (Shinji Yamashita, Professor Emeritus, The University of Tokyo)
«An important contribution both to Japanese studies and to the social science of disasters. It succeeds in rendering comprehensible an extremely complex sociocultural event.» (Harumi Befu, Stanford University)
«These are first-rate ethnographies displaying not only great empathy but also deep contextual knowledge of contemporary Japanese society and culture. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the resiliency of the human spirit in the wake of catastrophic events.» (Ted Bestor, Harvard University)


Tom Gill is Professor of Social Anthropology at the Faculty of International Studies, Meiji Gakuin University in Yokohama.
Brigitte Steger is Senior Lecturer in Modern Japanese Studies at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Downing College.
David H. Slater is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Sophia University in Tokyo and Director of the Institute of Comparative Culture there.

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