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Adjunct Associate Professor
As a native of Japan who came to America to attend college, I became keenly aware of cultural differences. This led me to ponder what is culture and what culture does to us. To find answers, I studied anthropology, and the culture-individual relationship has become a major concern linking my various academic interests. The question of how the individual negotiates reality, simultaneously guided and constrained by culture, has provided the major theoretical framework for much of my work. As strategic settings to address this question, my past and current research has focused on situations where individuals are under powerful cultural constraints. Old age in America, the topic of my dissertation, presents the cultural dilemma because growing old is regarded as an antithesis of American ideals. Mortuary rituals in Japan and the temporal dimension of contemporary life in both the US and Japan show how the individual is subjected to the despotism of tradition and to the tyranny of the clock respectively. These studies illustrate the individual’s ingenuity in coping with the attendant cultural problems and highlight not only the complex interplay among cultural models, social action, and individual experience, but also the significance of human agents both as products and as bearers or creators of the cultural order. Social change, which generates further constrains, is another effective area of exploration. My continuing research in three cultures—on two Thai families since 1985, Japanese mortuary rituals since 1988, and on older Americans since 1987—enables me to investigate how people adapt to the rapidly changing world they live in.
Research Interests: sociocultural anthropology, psychological anthropology, aging, family, mortuary rituals, conception of time, social change, US, Japan, Thailand
Forthcoming (2020) Through Japanese Eyes: Thirty Years of Studying Aging in America. Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, New Jersey.
2018 “Evolving Funerals in Contemporary Japan.” in A Companion to the Anthropology of Death. Antonius C.G.M. Robben, ed. pp. 17-30. Wiley Blackwell: Malden, Massachusetts.
2016 “The Obligation to Give, Receive, and Make a Return: Comparing the Meanings of Reciprocity in America and Japan.” in the fourth edition of Distant Mirrors: America as a Foreign Culture. Philip R. DeVita, ed. pp. 242-258. Waveland: Long Grove, Illinois.
2014 “Evolving Funerals in Japan.” Anthropology Newsletter (electronic version). April.
2014 “Good Bye Rush Hour Trains, Hello Morning Walks: Changes in Morning Experience for Japanese Retirees.” lo Squaderno 32: 41-44.
2011 “Rites of Passage to Death and Afterlife in Japan.” Generations 35(3): 28-33.
2010 (editor) Social Change in Thailand: A. Thomas Kirsch, a Northeastern Village, and Two Families. CreateSpace: Charleston, South Carolina.
2010 “A Tale of Two Thai Families: Reflections on Social Change.” in Social Change in Thailand: A. Thomas Kirsch, a Northeastern Village, and Two Families. Yohko Tsuji, ed. pp. 65-96. Charleston, South Carolina: CreateSpace.
2006 “Mortuary Rituals in Japan: The Hegemony of Tradition and the Motivations of Individuals.” Ethos 34(3): 391-431.
2006 “Railway Time and Rubber Time: The Paradox in the Japanese Conception of Time.” Time & Society 15(2/3): 177-195.
2005 “Time Is Not Up: Temporal Complexity of Older Americans’ Lives.” The Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology 20(1): 3-26.
2004 "Raise as a Mirror of Gense: From Legally Sanctioned Ancestor Worship to Modern Mortuary Rituals in Japan.” in Practicing the Afterlife: Perspectives from Japan. Susanne Formanek and William LaFleur, eds. pp. 417-436. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.
2002 "Death Policies in Japan: The State, the Family, and the Individual." in Family and Social Policy in Japan: Anthropological Perspectives. Roger Goodman, ed. pp. 177-199. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
1997 "Encounters with the Elderly in America." in the second edition of Distant Mirrors: America as a Foreign Culture. Philip R. DeVita and James D. Armstrong, eds. 89‑99. Belmont, California: Wadsworth. (Also appeared in the third edition, pp. 84-94, 2002.)
1997 "An Organization For the Elderly, By the Elderly: A Senior Center in the United States." in the second edition of The Cultural Context of Aging: Worldwide Perspectives. Jay Sokolovsky, ed. pp. 350‑363. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood.
1997 "Continuities and Changes in Conceptions of Old Age in Japan." in Aging: Asian Concepts and Experiences Past and Present. Sepp Linhart and Susanne Formanek, eds. pp. 195‑208. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences.