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Still Life: Scarecrow sociality, economic abandonment, and public curiosity in rural Japan

photo of scarecrow
February 8, 2019 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
East Asia (Lathrop) Library, Room 224, 518 Memorial Way
Joseph Hankins

About the talk:

There is a small town on Shikoku, the fourth largest island of Japan, populated primarily by scarecrows. Close to two hundred scarecrows stand in the farm fields where nothing but weeds now grow; they wait at the bus stop past which busses no longer run; and they sit in an elementary school devoid of human children.

These scarecrows, the woman who makes and maintains them, and the town that houses them have been the object of recent national and international attention as emblem of the corrosive power of late capitalism. National and international media outlets have circulated images of these effigies, painting a nostalgic and mournful picture of an agrarian way of life now past. Increasing numbers of visitors from urban centers of affluent countries — Germany filmmakers, Argentine journalists, and curious tourists from Hong Kong or the United States — are making the trek to this small town and its inanimate inhabitants.

In this town, the labor of aging women, pushed to the edge of existence, serve as basis for the satiation of urban curiosity. In this paper, Joseph Hankins argues that the economic conditions that enable the hyper-mobility of urban public curiosity are precisely those that push small villages such as this one to the verge of disappearance. A gendered, spatial, and temporal organization of labor and leisure, curiosity and possibility — all global in scope — condense here into the scarecrow.

About the speaker:

Joseph Hankins is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Critical Gender Studies at the University of California, San Diego. His research examines the interplay of flow and capture – of goods, people, and political possibility. His first book followed raw cowhide from his hometown in Texas to a tannery in Japan, examining the economic conditions that enable political arguments that Japan is multicultural. His talk is from his second book project.

Free and open to the public. Please RSVP here

Event Sponsor: 
Center for East Asian Studies, Department of Anthropology
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