Alexy headshot

I am a cultural anthropologist focusing on contemporary Japan, with interest in ideals and experiences of family lives, constructions of intimacy, and legal anthropology. Through the lens of family life, my ethnographic research investigates changing norms around the social and legal constructions of gender contextualized within the rapid societal changes of recent decades. My research makes clear that what might seem like private or personal family issues both reflect and significantly influence broader political and social trends.

Alexy_Intimate Disconnections cover
My book, Intimate Disconnections: Divorce and the Romance of Independence in Contemporary Japan, considers how people negotiate freedom, happiness, and connections through divorce. Centered on a moment when heterosexual marriages are increasingly under stress, this book explores how Japanese men and women decide what makes a marriage good or bad, and how they end problematic relationships. Intimate Disconnections argues that when imagining, creating, and ending relationships, Japanese men and women often struggle to reconcile tensions they perceive between intimacy, connection, and dependence. I theorize this fraught intimacy through separation as “connected independence,” a new, elusive ideal for relationships that reflects broader social concerns about the risks and benefits of interdependence. It was published by the University of Chicago Press and I'm thrilled that it is also available through open access, with subvention funds from the TOME program.

離婚の文化人類学 cover Chinese cover2
I am tremendously pleased that there is interest in this book for Japanese and Chinese readers. A Japanese version, translated by Takeshi Hamano, was published by Misuzu Press. A (simplified) Chinese version, translated by Xiangning Amy Xu and Xianyan Peng, was published by East China Normal University Press.

I am currently writing a book, Family Law in a Family Nation: Parental Abductions and Activism in Contemporary Japan. This book explores how conflicts between family members – such as custody disputes, parental abductions, and more – are handled in the court system and also by individual people if the courts provide insufficient resolution. Locating family law exceptionalism in a specific cultural context, I argue that the centrality of “family” as an organizing symbol for the Japanese nation, and the ensuing legal system that privileges families as unimpeachably private space, creates fundamental lacunae for people seeking assistance in family disputes.

Intimate Japan cover copy Ie volume cover

With Emma Cook, I co-edited Intimate Japan: Ethnographies of Closeness and Conflict. We are happy the volume was chosen by Knowledge Unlatched to be published through open access and the full book is available online. With Richard Ronald, I co-edited Home and Family in Japan: Continuity and Transformation.

I am an associate professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Michigan, where I am also the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Interested students are welcome to explore the department's two majors and four minors, as well as the honors program. I serve as the Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Center for Japanese Studies, and welcome applications to join the Undergraduate Advisory Board.

At the University of Hawai’i Press, I am the series editor for the Asia Pop! book series. It examines how popular culture, broadly defined, is created, consumed, critiqued, and subverted in the region and as it makes its way around the world. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the series or would like to submit a proposal.

Du Animated Encounters Lee et al Pop Empires Silvio Puppets White_Drunken Master

In the picture at the top of this page, you see Tokyo’s SkyTree as reflected in the Asahi building. Both buildings are easy to make fun of, but I love the colors in this shot.

Please explore the links on the top of this page, which are in the upper right corner if you are on a mobile device.