Asian Studies, Ethnography

Book launch: Japan Copes with Calamity

Gill et al. coverJapan Copes with Calamity, edited by Tom Gill, Brigitte Steger and David H. Slater, will be launched on Wednesday 20 November at 6:30 pm at the Japan Foundation, Russell Square House, 10-12 Russell Square, London WC1 5EH. Please book by emailing to reserve your place.

The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters that afflicted Japan on 11 March 2011, known as ‘3.11’, were Japan’s largest disaster since the Second World War, killing about 20,000. To this day, 350,000 people are unable to return to their home communities. Japan Copes with Calamity is an ‘urgent ethnography’ – a collection of studies by researchers who travelled to north-eastern Japan to study first-hand the conditions in the disaster zone, get to know some of the people dealing with the consequences, and make those people’s voices heard.


In this special book launch, co-editor Brigitte Steger (University of Cambridge) will introduce the book and also talk about her own study from Yamada, a coastal town in Iwate prefecture. She spent several weeks living in a Buddhist temple used as a shelter, and describes the struggle of the evacuees to re-create their community and a sense of normality. Hygiene, both physical and spiritual, emerges as a key theme.

Alyne Delaney (Aalborg University, Denmark) will discuss the devastating impact of the tsunami on the coastal fishing communities of Miyagi Prefecture, based on her experience in Shichigahama, a fishing village that she knew intimately long before the disaster.  She will focus on local and national government policies for post-disaster recovery, including funding challenges, forced relocation, and the responses of local people.

Tuukka Toivonen (Goldsmiths, University of London) will look at youth participation in volunteer activities and asks why they appear to have been so limited despite the enormous need for help after the 3.11 crisis and a vast amount of public sympathy for the victims. He exposes the socio-cultural obstacles to volunteerism, and describes how a spontaneously-formed group called ‘Youth for 3.11’ went about negotiating them.

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