Edited Volumes

Home and Family in Japan: Continuity and Transformation. Co-edited with Richard Ronald. Routledge Press. 2011.

In the Japanese language the word ‘ie’ denotes both the materiality of homes and family relations within. The traditional family and family house - often portrayed in ideal terms as key foundations of Japanese culture and society - have been subject to significant changes in recent years. This book comprehensively addresses various aspects of family life and dwelling spaces, exploring how homes, household patterns and kin relations are reacting to contemporary social, economic and urban transformations, and the degree to which traditional patterns of both houses and households are changing. The book contextualizes the shift from the hegemonic post-war image of standard family life, to the nuclear family and to a situation now where Japanese homes are more likely to include unmarried singles; childless couples; divorcees; unmarried adult children and elderly relatives either living alone or in nursing homes. It discusses how these new patterns are both reinforcing and challenging typical understandings of Japanese family life.


Articles and Chapters
“Intimate Dependence and Its Risks in Neoliberal Japan.” Anthropological Quarterly 84(4): 897-920. Part of a special issue devoted to “The Ethics of Disconnection in a Neoliberal Age” co-edited with Ilana Gershon.

This paper examines how contemporary Japanese women are negotiating neoliberal standards for independence in relation to cultural norms and personal desires that encourage dependence in romantic relationships. In recent decades, neoliberal standards of maturity have become increasingly visible in Japan, and many marital counselors offer advice suggesting that independent, atomized selves are a key to happiness. Yet many women express ambivalence at this formula and instead find romantic possibility in dependent relationships. I examine how women are contesting these opposing standards by focusing on advice surrounding naming practices between spouses.


The Door My Wife Closed: Houses, Families, and Divorce in Japan. In Home and Family in Japan: Continuity and Transformation. Richard Ronald and Allison Alexy, eds. London: Routledge Press. 236-253.

Abstract: This chapter describes recent patterns in marriage and divorce to examine how literal and figurative houses figure into marital separation. I begin by describing demographic trends surrounding divorce, and summarize legal processes structured by Japanese family law. Using ethnographic examples, I analyze how literal houses are stages for divorce, and how people attenuate, reconfigure, and remodel the spaces within homes as a result of marital difficulties. Next I examine how figurative houses, and the rhetoric built from legal constructions of family life, shape the way people understand marriage and divorce. I conclude by suggesting that, although marital assets are frequently invested in family homes, houses are vitally significant in divorce as more than economic capital. Houses, both literal and figurative, are a key frame through which people understand, construct, and make manifest their marital lives.


Introduction: Continuity and Change in Japanese Homes and Families. [co-written with Richard Ronald]. In Home and Family in Japan: Continuity and Transformation. Richard Ronald and Allison Alexy, eds. London: Routledge Press. 1-24.

Abstract: This volume deals with family change, not as a system in decline, but rather as a complex and fragmentary process that reflects transformation and continuity, adaptation and assimilation, function and dysfunction. Contributors to this edited collection blend economic, political, social and spatial topics, echoing multidisciplinary concerns, and nearly all draw upon recent empirical research. Many address changes in families, households and homes through ethnographic research while others use documentary and quantitative sources to demonstrate shifts in homes and household conditions. The purpose of this chapter, as well as providing an introduction to the other chapters of the book, is to identify past, present and emerging features of Japanese families. The intention is to provide a reflexive overview of continuity and change from which to access the following chapters.


Deferred Benefits, Romance, and the Specter of Later-life Divorce Contemporary Japan, vol. 19: 169-188.

Abstract: In this paper, I describe how the threat of rising divorce rates among people near retirement has provoked conversations about ideals and expectations of marital relationships in contemporary Japan. A change in the pension law slated to go into effect in April 2007 enables divorced women to access up to half of their ex-husbands‘ future pension payments, making divorce more financially feasible for women who have not held full-time jobs. This legal change coincides with the oldest baby-boomers turning sixty and is generally predicted to create a boom in “later-life divorce” (jukunen rikon). In media images and people’s conversations, these potential later-life divorces are dramatically gendered. It is commonly suggested that the vast majority will be initiated by women and will leave helpless husbands who are unable to perform basic domestic duties. Based on ethnographic research and participation in support groups, this paper describes reflections on and reconsiderations of marital ideals and family lives during the period immediately before the legal changes. In this analysis, I pay particular attention to media coverage, individual case studies, and the symbolic value of women’s work and retirement.



Reviews and Other Publications
2014. Review of The Japanese Family in Transition: From the Professional Housewife Ideal to the Dilemmas of Choice by Suzanne Hall Vogel with Steven K. Vogel. 2013. Rowman and Littlefield. Social Science Japan Journal 17(2).

2014. Review of Precarious Japan by Anne Allison. 2013. Durham and London: Duke University Press. Anthropological Quarterly 87(2): 545-557.

2014. Review of Housewives of Japan: An Ethnography of Real Lives and Consumerized Domesticity by Ofra Goldstein-Gidoni. 2012. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. American Ethnologist 41(1): 198-199.

2013. Review of Fragile Kinships: Family Ideologies and Child Welfare in Japan. A dissertation by Kathryn Goldfarb. Dissertation Reviews. www.dissertationreviews.org

2012. Review of Lovesick Japan: Sex, Marriage, Romance, Law by Mark D. West. 2011. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 18(4): 914-915.

2011. Review of Manners and Mischief: Gender, Power, and Etiquette in Japan. Jan Bardsley and Laura Miller, eds. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Southeast Review of Asian Studies 33: 283-285.

2011. Review of Women and Family in Contemporary Japan by Susan Holloway. 2010. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Contemporary Sociology 40(3): 313-314.

2011. Review of Tough Choices: Bearing an Illegitimate Child in Japan by Ekaterina Hertog. 2010. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Contemporary Sociology 40(2): 188-189.

2010. Review of Embodying Culture: Pregnancy in Japan and Israel by Tsipy Ivry. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. 2010. Ethos 38(4).

2007. Review of The Too-Good Wife: Alcohol, Codependency, and the Politics of Nurturance in Postwar Japan by Amy Borovoy. 2007. Southeast Review of Asian Studies, vol. 29: 261-264.

2004. Review of Doing Fieldwork in Japan edited by Theodore Bestor, Patricia Steinhoff and Victoria Lyon Bestor. 2004. H-Net Online.


Writing in Japanese / 日本語の発表
バツとして生きるーバツイチの理論に向けて [Living as an X: Toward a theory of the Batsu Ichi] Paper presented at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting. 2006. Translated into Japanese by Junichi Machida.