Ph.D., Australian National University, 1998
Research Interests: anthropology of knowledge, risk, trust, hope, utopia and anti-utopia, materiality, evidence, economic anthropology, social studies of finance, philosophical anthropology, historical anthropology, anthropology of religion, Christianity, gifts and exchange, Fiji, Japan, U.S.
My recent work has been driven by a very simple question: how do we keep hope alive? I am interested in this question because of ongoing efforts to claim and even instrumentalize the category of hope in a wide spectrum of genres of knowledge from psychotherapy to conservative and progressive political thought. I have investigated the question in two radically different field sites, a peri-urban village in Suva, Fiji and a trading room of a major Japanese securities firm in Tokyo.
My first fieldwork project (1994-1996) focused on Suvavou people, descendants of the original landowners of Suva, Fiji's capital. My first book, The Method of Hope: Anthropology, Philosophy, and Fijian Knowledge (Stanford University Press, 2004), is a study of Suvavou people's long-standing hope to regain their ancestral land. In that book, drawing on extensive archival and field research, I examine how Suvavou people have kept hope alive over the last hundred years. My analysis draws attention to the capacity of Suvavou people to create hopeful moments across different facets of their life ranging from petitions to the government to gift-giving rituals, Christian church services and business activities. The book is also a critical assessment of well-known philosophical texts on hope such as the German Marxist thinker Ernst Bloch's book, The Principle of Hope, and represents my effort to carve out a space for a new kind of anthropological engagement with philosophy.
My second fieldwork project (1998-2010) focused on a team of Japanese derivatives traders at a major Japanese securities firm. The focus of this project was on these traders' career changes in the midst of Japan's economic slump. In my second book entitled Arbitraging Japan: Traders as Critics of Capitalism, I examine these traders' hopeful (and sometimes utopian) visions animating their daily trading and life decisions. In particular, I investigate how these traders have sought to extend economic assumptions such as the efficient market hypothesis, trading strategies such as arbitrage and tools of trade such as the Excel spread sheet program to facets of life beyond the market narrowly defined. The aim of this investigation is to explore the extent to which theories and techniques of finance have served these Japanese traders as an intellectual resource for developing critiques of capitalism and expanded visions of humanity. Underlying this project is a view of traders and other financial market experts as thinking subjects engaged in dialogue with various intellectual traditions. For further discussion, see this article from a talk I gave a Yale University.
In both of these projects, my ultimate goal has been to construct an ethnographically informed theory of hope that is also hopeful. In more concrete terms, I wish to join ongoing divergent efforts to reinvigorate anthropological knowledge and social theory by contributing to an understanding of the place of hope in knowledge formation, academic and otherwise. As part of this exploration, I have developed an international collaborative research project with the University of Tokyo’s Institute of Social Science (http://project.iss.u-tokyo.ac.jp/hope/).
- Development of Anthropological Thought” (Graduate Seminar)
- Evidence: Ethnography and Historical Method (Graduate Seminar)
- Proseminar in Sociocultural Anthropology: Culture and Symbol (Graduate Seminar)
- Social Studies of Economics and Finance (Graduate Seminar)
- Hope as a Method (Advanced Undergraduate Seminar)
- God(s) and the Market (Advanced Undergraduate Seminar/Graduate Seminar)
- Gift and Exchange (Intermediate Undergraduate Seminar)
- Topics in the Anthropology of Japan (Intermediate Undergraduate Course);
- Japanese Society Through Film (Introductory Undergraduate Course)
- Center for the Study of Economy and Society
- Graduate Field of Asian Studies
- East Asia Program
Selected Books and Edited Collections
- Arbitraging Japan: Traders as Critics of Capitalism (under contract with the University of California Press).
- Hope in the Economy (co-edited with Richard Swedberg; in preparation).
- Kibo toiu hoho [the Japanese translation of The Method of Hope: Anthropology, Philosophy, and Fijian Knowledge with a new preface]. Tokyo: Ibun-sha. http://www.ibunsha.co.jp
- The Method of Hope: Anthropology, Philosophy, and Fijian Knowledge. Stanford: Stanford University Press. http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=6376
Selected Articles and Chapters
- “Gifts and Exchange.” In The Oxford Handbook of Material Culture Studies. Dan Hicks and Mary Beaudry, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- “Kibo no kyogo” [“Competing hopes”]. Bunkajinruigaku jiten [Encyclopedia of cultural anthropology]. Nihon Bunkajinruigaku Gakkai (Japanese Society for Cultural Anthropology), ed. Pp. 606-607. Tokyo: Maruzen.
- “Obama no kibo: ‘mo-nai’ kara ‘mada-nai’ e” [Obama’s hope: from ‘no longer’ to ‘not yet’]. In Kibo no hajimari: Ryudoka-suru sekai no nakade (Hope’s beginnings: In the world in flex), Kibogaku (Hope studies), vol. 4. Genda Yuji and Uno Shigeki, eds. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press.
- “Obama no retorikku: Kibo no chikara wa donoyoni jittaika shitaka?” [Obama’s rhetoric: How did the power of hope become substantive?] Gengo [Language] 38(3): 72-75.
- “The Temporality of No Hope.” In Ethnographies of Neoliberalism. Carol Greenhouse, ed. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, October 2009.
- “Barack Obama’s Campaign of Hope: Unifying the General and the Personal” (In Focus Commentary), Anthropology News, November 2008, pp. 5, 8.
- “Kibo toiu seisaku: Amerika daitoryo koho yobisenkyo ni miru kibo no chikara” [“Hope as policy: The power of hope in the U.S. presidential nomination race”]. Gengo [Language] 37(5): 6-7.
- “Sen. Obama’s Policy of Hope” (Op-Ed column). Ithaca Journal, February 29, 2008.
- “Toreda to kibo: toki kara saitei e” [“Traders and hope: from speculation to arbitrage”]. In Jinruigaku de sekai wo miru: iryo, seikatsu, seiji, keizai [Seeing the world through anthropology: medicine, life, politics, economy]. Kasuga Naoki, ed. Pp. 281-298. Kyoto: Mineruva-shobo.
- “Arbitraging Faith and Reason” (Commentary on Jane Guyer, “Prophecy and the Near Future: Thoughts on Macroeconomic, Evangelical and Punctuated Time”). American Ethnologist 34(3): 430432.
- “Between Arbitrage and Speculation: An Economy of Belief and Doubt.” Economy and Society 36(3): 397-416.
- “Documenting the Present.” In Documents: Artifacts of Modern Knowledge. Annelise Riles, ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
- "Economy of Dreams: Hope in Global Capitalism and Its Critiques." Cultural Anthropology 21(2).
- "Keeping Hope Alive in Anthropological Research." Antropologicheskii forum/Forum for Anthropology and Culture 2.
- Comment on Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, “When the Future Decides: Uncertainty and Intentional Action in Contemporary Cameroon.” Current Anthropology 46(3): 379-380.
- "Failure as an Endpoint" (co-authored with Annelise Riles). In Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics, and Ethics as Anthropological Problems. Aihwa Ong and Stephen J. Collier, eds. Pp. 320-331. Malden, M.A.
- "From Sugar Cane to 'Swords': Hope and the Extensibility of the Gift in Fiji." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, n.s., 11(2).
- "The Materiality of Finance Theory." In Materiality. Daniel Miller, ed. Durham: Duke University Press.
- “Toreda ni miru shijo no jikan/kibo no jikan” [Traders’ view on the temporality of the market and the temporality of hope]. Keizai seminar [Seminar on the economy] 610 (November 2005): 30-33.
- “Rekishi to kozo (Sarinzu vs. Obesekere ronso)” [“History and structure (The debate between Sahlins and Obeyesekere)”]. Bunkajinruigaku bunken jiten [Encyclopedia of basic books in cultural anthropology]. Komatsu Kazuhiko, Tanaka Masakazu, Tani Yasushi, Hara Takehiko and Watanabe Kozo, eds. Tokyo: Kobundo.
- "Delegating Closure." In Law and Empire in the Pacific: Fiji and Hawai'i. Sally Merry and Donald Brenneis, eds. Pp. 239-259. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press.
- "The Temporalities of the Market." American Anthropologist 105(2): 255-265.
- "Yurushi no giho: Fiji no baai" ["The art of forgiving: the case of Fiji"]. In Momegoto wo shorisuru [Managing conflicts]. Masaru Miyamoto, ed. Pp. 100-111. Tokyo: Yuzankaku.
- "Kaikaku to kibo: shoken toreda tachi no tenshoku" ["Reform and hope: securities traders' career changes"]. In Kane to jinsei [Money and life]. Toru Konma, ed. Pp. 268-280. Tokyo: Yuzankaku.
- "Bunka no seiji niokeru bubun to zentai" ["Parts and wholes in the politics of culture"]. Minzokugaku kenkyu (Japanese Journal of Ethnology) 66(2): 240-257.
- "Hoho toshite no kibo" ["Hope as a method"]. Shakai jinruigaku nenpo [Annual report of social anthropology] (Tokyo Metropolitan University) 27: 35-55.
- "Monjokan to mura: rekishi jinruigaku kara monjo no minzokushi e" ["The archives and the village: from historical anthropology to the ethnography of documents"]. In Oseania posutokoroniaru [Postcoloniality in Oceania]. Naoki Kasuga, ed. Pp. 79-107. Tokyo: Kokusaishoin.
- "Faith and Its Fulfillment: Agency, Exchange and the Fijian Aesthetics of Completion." American Ethnologist 27(1): 31-51.
- "The Limits of Politics." People and Culture in Oceania 16: 109-122