December 11, 2014/ 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

UCLA Haines Hall Room 352

Colloquium: Disaster, tourism, and anthropology

In the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake

Presentation by Shinji Yamashita, Terasaki Chair in US- Japan Relations

On March 11, 2011, a mega-earthquake of 9.0 magnitude struck East Japan, followed by a huge tsunami and the meltdown of Fukushima’s nuclear power plants. This was a disaster of unprecedented complexity. The disaster produced approximately 20,000 victims, including missing people, and it is said that the damage can be estimated at 17 trillion Japanese yen. However, what we should understand is that disaster is a long process. As of August 2014, more than three years after the disaster, there were about 250,000 evacuees and displaced people and the local economic situation is still shaky. Particularly in Fukushima, the nuclear plant still remains in critical condition. The process of recovery from the disaster proceeds at a snail’s pace. In this situation, this paper first pays attention to tourism that could play a positive role in the reconstruction of devastated communities. In particular, it examines the implications of “volunteer tourism,” as a new form of tourism. Often organized by NGOs, volunteer tourism seeks to support the people in disaster areas, while paying special attention to the Japanese concept of kizuna or “social ties.” At the same time, the paper discusses new developments of anthropological practices in Japan in the post-disaster context. Reviewing what role anthropology can play in the process of reconstruction, I argue that anthropologists should engage in the public issues in pursuit of a new relationship of anthropology and society through involving various parties concerned such as local communities, government sectors, activists, and anthropologists. In so doing, we could practice a kind of public anthropology that contributes to the understanding and solution of contemporary social issues. The East Japan Disaster is exactly the kind of challenge we have to respond to.

Shinji Yamashita is Emeritus Professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Tokyo, Professor of Tourism Studies at Teikyo Heisei University, and the current chair of UCLA Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies. He was a former president of the Japanese Society of Ethnology (Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology since 2004) during the term 1996-98. His research focuses on the dynamics of culture in the process of globalization with a special reference to international tourism and transnational migration. His regional concern is with Southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia, as well as Japan. His books include Globalization in Southeast Asia: Local, National, and Transnational Perspectives (Berghahn Books, 2003), Bali and Beyond: Explorations in the Anthropology of Tourism (Berghahn Books, 2003), The Making of Anthropology in East and Southeast Asia (Berghahn Books, 2004), Multiculturalism in the New Japan (Berghahn Boos, 2008), and Wind over Water: Migration in an East Asian Context (Berghahn Books, 2012).

Free & Open to the public

Sponsor(s): Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies, Anthropology