Seminar - David Slater on political subjectification around digital media in post-3.11 Japan

*Please note the venue of this event has changed. This lecture will now be held in Brindabella Theatre, JG Crawford Building.*


The paper explores the diverse ways in which social media has facilitated new forms of political engagement and emergence of what we might call political subjectivities during the last three years.  Like all crises, 3.11 presented challenges not to only the state and the configurations of capital, but also to a wide range of individuals and groups—challenges to reach out beyond our usual territories, our compromised patterns of sociality and untenable labor situations simply as a condition of survival. I take this ‘reaching out’ to be the kernel of political subjectivity, the start of a ‘politics of alternatives.’ Social media often allows us to respond to those challenges in tactical ways (immediate, adhoc, and opportunistic), not only providing tools to subvert entrenched relations of power and control, but reconstituting an environment of connection.  Ethnographic examples from the immediate reaction and relief phase, the halting and seemingly aborted pattern of ‘recovery’ within Tohoku, with some limited comments on the Tokyo-based political landscape since are offered.  I ask, what are the moments of connection and transgression where social media played a key part; how do these connections develop into more regular patterns of sociality, and even mechanisms of political engagement; what are the limits of social media, and where have these connections fallen apart?

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About the presenter:

David H. Slater is the Director of the Institute of Comparative Culture and Associate Professor, Cultural Anthropology, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Graduate Program in Japanese Studies, Sophia University. His early research primarily focuses on the youth and education, and the trend of labor markets in Japan in recessionary phase after 1990s, and has written articles and books including the co-edited volume Social Class in Contemporary Japan: Structures, Sorting and Strategies (Routledge, 2011). After March 2011, he started volunteer activity, such as delivering blankets and other relief goods or removing debris, with his students in the affected areas. He gives lectures and talks about the disaster in Japan and overseas, including the U.S., Europe and Asia. His related publications include “Hot Spots: 3.11 Politics in Disaster Japan” as a special issue of Cultural Anthropology and has co-authored with Keiko Nishimura and Love Kindstrand “Social Media, Information and Political Activism in Japan’s 3.11 Crisis,” in Japan Focus.  His most recent volume, co-entitled with Tom Gill and Brigitte Steger, is 東日本大震災の人類学: 津波、原発事故と被災者たちの「その後」(Jinbunshoin 2013). An English “version,” entitled Coping with Calamity,” is due out in November from Peter Lang Press. He is currently directing the “Tohoku Voices," a video archive of narratives from local residents in the area, and recorded several hundred hours of interviews so far with his students for the project.  



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