Japan Anthropology Workshop

Home of the JAWS conference members and committee.


The Japan Anthropology Workshop (known as JAWS) developed out of a growing international interest in the anthropology of Japan. This interest comes from two rather different quarters – from anthropologists who are looking at Japan as a country which may have a contribution to make to their own specialist field; and from scholars already specializing in Japanese studies who are increasingly appreciating the insights that an anthropological approach can bring to their work. The idea for JAWS was conceived at the 1982 EAJS Conference in The Hague, and Joy Hendry organized a planning meeting with Brian Moeran, Arne Rokkum and Arthur Stockwin the following year, which led to a conference at the Nissan Institute for Japanese Studies in Oxford, which also financially supported the venture. The need was identified for a meeting place for the growing, but largely isolated, band of anthropologists of Japan to get together and exchange ideas, and JAWS was officially founded after the conference in March 1984. Joy Hendry served as Secretary for the first ten years of the Workshop; Roger Goodman took over from 1993 until 1999 when the post transferred to Jan van Bremen and its title changed to Secretary-General to reflect the growth of the organization and the commitment needed to run it. Lola Martinez took up the post in 2005, and in 2010 the chair passed to John Traphagan.

JAWS holds major thematic conferences every eighteen months – alternate conferences coinciding with the triennial meetings of the European Association of Japanese Studies (EAJS) – as well as putting on a number of smaller workshops and seminars. It issues a biannual newsletter of news and views about the anthropology of Japan; a full register of members, their interests and publications is included in every fourth issue.

The theme of the first conference in Oxford was ‘Time and Space in Japan’ and the papers were published as Interpreting Japanese Society: Anthropological Approaches (JASO Occasional Publication Series, No. 5), edited by Joy Hendry and Jonathan Webber, 1986 and re-issued in a new edition by Routledge in 1997. The theme of the second conference was ‘Communication’ when JAWS held a special session as part of the EAJS Conference in Paris in 1985. Papers from this session appeared in Ian Nish (ed.), Contemporary European Writing on Japan: Scholarly Views from Eastern and Western Europe, Paul Norbury Publications, 1988.

The third JAWS conference took place at the Truman Research Institute at the Hebrew University in 1987 where the theme was ‘The Contribution of Japanese Studies to Anthropology’ and resulted in the volume edited by Ben-Ari, Moeran and Valentine, Unwrapping Japan: Society and Culture in Anthropological Perspective, Manchester University Press and the University of Hawai’i Press, 1990. The theme of the fourth JAWS conference, held again as a session of the EAJS meeting at Durham in 1988, was also the title of the book that resulted: Roger Goodman and Kirsten Refsing (eds.), Ideology and Practice in Modern Japan, Routledge, 1990. Routledge also the published the papers which were put together and edited by D.P Martinez and Jan van Bremen out of the fifth JAWS meeting in Leiden in 1990 with the title Ritual and Ceremony in Japan, 1994. This volume won the Choice Outstanding Academic Book Award for 1996 and was reprinted in 1996 and 1997.

The themes of the sixth JAWS conference, held as part of the EAJS Berlin meeting in 1991, the seventh meeting which took place in Banff, Canada in 1992, the eighth meeting in Copenhagen in 1994 and the ninth meeting in Santiago de Compostela in Spain were respectively: ‘Japan at Play: The Ludic and Logic of Power’; ‘Culture in Japanese Nature: Process or Paradox?’, ‘Material Culture: Objects, Goods, Uses, Meanings and Interactions’ and ‘Pilgrimage and the International Encounter’. The papers from the first of these meetings have been published as Japan at Play: the Ludic and the Logic of Power (J. Hendry and M. Raveri [eds], London: Routledge, 2002); from the second by NIAS-Curzon Press as Japanese Images of Nature: Cultural Perspectives (edited by Pamela Asquith and Arne Kalland); and from the third by Kegan Paul International in 2000 as Consumption and Material Culture in Contemporary Japan, edited by Michael Ashkenazi and John Clammer. The papers from the fourth were published in the JAWS series in 2009 as Japanese Tourism and Travel Culture.

The tenth JAWS meeting was arranged to coincide with the Biennial Conference of the Japanese Studies Association of Australia in Melbourne in July 1997 under the theme of Popular Culture and Mass Media in Japan’ and the eleventh JAWS Meeting took place, two months later, in August 1997 at the EAJS Conference in Budapest where the theme was ‘The Japan Outside Japan’.

The twelfth JAWS meeting – the largest and the first one to he held in Japan – was at the National Museum of Ethnology (Kokuritsu Minzoku Hakubutsukan) in Osaka in March 1999 and hosted seven separate panels with over 60 speakers and discussants under the general title of ‘New Directions in the Anthropology of Japan’.  Family and Social Policy in Japan:  Anthropological Approaches (Roger Goodman, [ed.], Cambridge University Press, 2002) is based on a panel from the 1999 JAWS meeting at Minpaku and includes papers on anthropological research and Japan’s public policy with relation to fertility, peri-natal care, child care, child abuse, sexuality, care for the aged and death.  A panel organized jointly by Hirochika Nakamaki and Mitch Sedgwick on ‘The Anthropology of Japanese Organisations’ was published in Japanese as Nihon no Soshiki:  Shaen bunka to Infomaru katsudo (Hirochika Nakamaki and Mitch Sedgwick, eds. Toho Shuppan, Osaka, 2003); in English a volume was published under the title The Culture of Association and Associations in Contemporary Japanese Society (Hirochika Nakamaki, ed., Senri Ethnological Studies, No. 61, 2002). The papers from a panel organized by Pamela Asquith were published as a special issue of Ritsumeikan Journal of Asia Pacific Studies, Vol. 6, 2000 under the title ‘Japanese Scholarship and International Academic Discourse’. Some of the papers given in a panel organized by William W. Kelly also made their way into his edited volume, Fanning the Flames:  Fans and Consumer Culture in Contemporary Japan (SUNY Press, 2004).

The thirteenth JAWS meeting was held concurrently with the 9th International Conference of the European Association of Japanese Studies in Lathi (Finland) in August 2000 with panels on ‘Body Talk’, ‘Popular Representations of Science and Technology’ and ‘State Control and Subversive Strategies of Children in Educational Settings’. The fourteenth meeting was at Yale in May 2002. For the first time, the conference consisted of a combination of plenary panels and research panels. A number of books which have since been published trace their origins – or at least part of their inspiration – to papers presented at this conference, including: Gordon Mathews and Bruce White (eds.), Japan’s Changing Generations: Are Young People Creating a New Society? (RoutledgeCurzon, 2004) and Eades, Jerry, Goodman, Roger and Hada, Yumiko (eds.), The ‘Big Bang’ in Japanese Higher Education:the 2004 Reforms and the Dynamics of Change. (Transpacific Press, Melbourne, 2005).

The fifteenth JAWS meeting was held concurrently with the 10th International Conference of the European Association of Japanese Studies in Warsaw in August 2003 with a number of panels, the largest being ‘Making Heritage in Japan’ and ‘Food and Drink in Contemporary Japan’. The sixteenth was held at the University of Hong Kong in March 2005. The general theme was ‘East meets West,’ and the book edited by Joy Hendry and Heung Wah Wong, entitled Dismantling the East West Dichotomy was largely the result of the plenary session held there. It was also a memorial to Jan van Bremen, our Secretary General who was unable to attend the conference due to ill health, and who passed away shortly afterward. The seventeenth JAWS workshop was scheduled as part of the 11th International Conference of the European Association of Japanese Studies in Vienna in August/September 2005 where the overall theme was ‘Time and Memory’.

The membership of JAWS has grown dramatically during the twenty-one years of its existence. Some twenty-four participants from fifteen countries took part in the first meeting in Oxford. Today JAWS has well over 240 members from more than twenty different countries. Sub-groups of JAWS members meet frequently and the Workshop has also proved a fertile ground for setting up collaborative research projects between anthropologists of Japan in different countries and between anthropologists and non-anthropologists interested in similar aspects of Japanese society. JAWS publications have also become widely recognized and in order to take advantage of this a JAWS Series was established in 2000 with RoutledgeCurzon under the general editorship of Joy Hendry. To date, more than a dozen volumes have been published in this series, with a twelfth currently in the planning stages. For more information, please see the Publications page.

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The Japan Anthropology Workshop (JAWS) is concerned with the field of anthropology of Japan. JAWS holds major conferences as well as smaller workshops and seminars, and issues a biannual newsletter. It publishes selected works on Japan anthropology in partnership with Routledge Press. To join, see the Membership page.


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