ALLISON ALEXY


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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.





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My book, Intimate Disconnections: Divorce and the Romance of Independence in Contemporary Japan, considers how people negotiate freedom, happiness, and connections through divorce. 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. A Japanese version was published by Misuzu Press and a Chinese version will come from 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.

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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.

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I am the co-creator and host of Michigan Talks Japan, a podcast from the Center for Japanese Studies. In it, I talk with scholars focused on Japan who are working in various academic disciplines and time periods.



At the University of Hawai’i Press, I am the series editor for Asia Pop! a new 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.

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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.

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