Anthropology and Japan's triple disaster

Aerial of damage to Wakuya, Japan. Flickr/U.S. Navy.
Aerial of damage to Wakuya, Japan. Flickr/U.S. Navy.

The three-way hit from the major earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown has created a situation beyond what even the most prepared country could manage. Entire villages were swept into the massive wave. Hundreds of bodies are now washing back to the shore. Nuclear plants are melting down. People are evacauting their home areas by the thousands to avoid radiation exposure.

Three questions for anthropologists:

  1. What do anthropologists have to say about the massive loss of lives from so-called natural disaster? The most obvious recent example is Haiti after the earthquake of January 2010. Readers, please share references and insights.
  2. What do anthropologists know about life in a nuclear melt-down zone? Read this: Adriana Petryna‘s amazing study, Life Exposed: Biological Citizens after Chernobyl. Her study of the making of “biological citizens” has much relevance to northern Japan. Can readers please offer other sources of knowledge?
  3. What do anthropologists know about people’s perceptions of risk and security around the world? Many anthropologists are addressing these important questions. The course syllabus for a graduate seminar I taught in spring 2009 on Culture, Risk and Security (embedded below) includes some ideas for reading and further thought.

This university-based blogger sends her heartfelt wishes to everyone in Japan and to those in any way related to people in the affected regions.

Anthropology 222 course syllabus { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js?1300351301”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

One thought on “Anthropology and Japan's triple disaster

  1. Jeronimo Angueyra

    I am a southamerican anthropologyst and archaeologyst who works in environmental impact analisys arroun the Rio Tercero Nuclear Plant, in Argentina, and i read with great concern your reflections about risk and the role of anthropological sciences in contemporary world. I think it is a sinister situation that the academic world of anthropology is participating on the cover up arround the complicity of the United States goverment in the terrotist attacks of 9/11 and the one million death holocaust in Irak and Afghanistan, by not stating any social forensic cientific research perspective on the international State Terrorism strategys of the post cold war. I would like to ask you, what is going to happen, in terms of catastrophic events, in the next 10 or 20 years, if our academic scolars keep on with the politicaly motivated byass of anthropologycal research on the identification of the main factors that determinate the configuration of hazards and risks for the world population? Next step for the Unites States International State Terrorism organizationa will be to create a nuclear catastrophe to be blamed on an other farry tale bearbed guy allegedly hidden in a cave.


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