Sunday, 29 July 2007

Intimate Immensity: A House Is a Machine for Living In

Fascinating as the 2 academic articles I've pasted below may be, I wonder, especially in light of my previous "Severed Heads Syndrome" posting, whether it might be more instructive to contextualise the Japanese experience within a more expansive theoretical framework- one that could account for the possible extent of any globalisation of the hikikomori phenomenon. The Ballardian youtube clip should also remind us that the recurrence of these kinds of dilemmas have to do with the social organisation of modern life, that is, if we wish to avoid ahistorical notions of a universal "human nature" as an explanatory device, and that this fact could lead us to theoretical approaches such as "comparative" and "multiple modernities". Of course, I realise the difficulties associated with economies of scale in conducting ethnographic research at a cross cultural level, but the ethnographic approach, these two other more theoretical alternatives should remind us, is not the only means at our disposal to determine just how unique the Japanese example is.
Time & Society, Vol. 15, No. 2-3, 233-249 (2006)

Japan's ‘Socially Withdrawn Youths’ and Time Constraints in Japanese Society
Management and conceptualization of time in a support group for ‘hikikomori’ Sachiko Kaneko
Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford;

This article discusses how time is conceptualized among hikikomori, or Japan’s so called ‘socially withdrawn youth’, through the narratives of hikikomori keikensha (those who experienced hikikomori) and also examines time and space management in hikikomorisupport context based on ethnographic data. Hikikomoriis an act of retreat from time and space constraints in society. Hikikomorisupport groups provide a place for them to be without feeling such time constraints, but this is not considered sufficient to get hikikomoriback into society. Hikikomori, which challenges the usual coordinates of time and space, may be understood as a kind of reaction to time pressures and role performances in Japanese society.
Key Words: ethnography • Japanese youth • narrative • social withdrawal • time constraints

Krysinska, Dorota
Hikikomori (Social Withdrawal) in Japan: Discourses of Media and Scholars; Multicausal Explanations of the Phenomenon.
Master of Arts
East Asian Studies
School of Arts and Sciences
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name
Dr. Akiko Hashimoto, Associate Professor, Sociology
Committee Chair
Dr. Brenda G. Jordan, Adjunct Assistant Professor, History of Art and Architecture
Committee Member
Dr. Keiko McDonald, Professor, East Asian Languages and Literatures
Committee Member
generalization in media
mute resistance
passive resistance
causal linkage
multi-causal explanation
conflict management
causal relationship
parent-child communication
educational pressure
social pressure
social withdrawal
conflict resolution
psychiatric disorder
psychiatric illness
sensationalism in media
school refusal
exaggeration in media
parent-child interdependence
multicausal explanation
Date of Defense
Hikikomori, a phenomenon which exists to date mostly in Japan, are people who seclude themselves in their bedrooms for an extended period of time and reject most forms of contact with the outside world. These are usually males and young people in their twenties who may comprise nearly a million Japanese citizens.
Since Japanese and foreign media as well as scholars express different opinions on potential causes of hikikomori, one of the focal points of my work is to show that causal explanations of the phenomenon, especially those involving multiple causes, that are provided by different authors are not in conflict. I do so by arguing that social withdrawal may be a consequence of each cause on its own, but also the result of interactions between them. To demonstrate it, I analyze discourses of media and scholars and show linkages between the three most salient causes of hikikomori: conformity to Japanese society, the pressure of the educational system, and a problem of communication between parents and children. These factors represent the three distinct categories of my analysis – Society, School and Parents.
The second issue I address in my work is hikikomori as a form of resistance against the social order in Japan. My study shows that social withdrawal does not have to be an extreme form of behavioral deviation as such, but rather that it could be perceived as a radical manifestation of resistance in the society of Japan originating from within Japanese culture. This argument explains why hikikomori do not decide to choose an active form of resistance.
Through a cross-category discussion, the thesis is one of the first to expound on interrelations of hikikomori causes originating from different spheres of life, such as society, school and parents. Moreover, the work elaborately explains the correlations between causes which makes it distinct from other authors’ publications. My study is also one of the first summaries of all potential factors mentioned by media and scholars that result in the problem of hikikomori, which will supply a better understanding of the phenomenon in the English language literature.


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