Dr. Jieun Kim
(Postdoctoral Fellow at the Graduate School of East Asian Studies at FU Berlin)

"Cultivating the Rhythm of Life: Homeless Activism in Japan"

November 4, 2015

Situated in a former day laborers' district (Yoseba) in Japan, this presentation explores how the search for survival of the homeless involved cultivating a sense of orientation and temporalities of care against the fate of decline. Following the collapse of the bubble economy in the 1990s, the figure of the homeless appeared as the epitome of Japan's national decline, prompting welfare reforms stressing the “self-reliance” of the homeless at the turn of the new millennium. While anthropological literature on neoliberal subjectivity tends to emphasize the uncertainty and precarity imposed on people, I suggest that, for the Japanese homeless, it was the certainty of decline, rather than uncertainty, that has shaped their struggle for survival. Charting the pathologies of time sensed by the homeless, their supporters, and medical practitioners, I discuss how people fought off the natural course of (self-) destruction by cultivating the rhythm of life (seikatsu no rizumu) based on interdependent relations of care. I show that survival, for my informants, was perceived as relational work made possible through weaving temporal rhythm and orientation connecting oneself to others, in the absence of normative relations of care defined by familial ties.

Der Vortrag wurde gemeinsam von der Japanologie und der Graduate School of East Asian Studies angeboten.