[CJS Research Webinar] Museums of themselves: disaster, heritage, and the future of northeastern Japan with Dr Andrew Littlejohn

Friday 11 March
13:00-14:00 GMT
Zoom Webinar

The 2011 disasters caused much concern about the fate of Tohoku’s cultural properties. Damage to not only buildings and landscapes but also intangible heritage, some worried, could weaken social infrastructure and thus slow or undermine recovery. In this talk, however, I argue that 3.11 actually caused an expansion of heritage regimes and their associated culture industries in the Northeast. Following Gerald Suttles, I call this ‘museumification’. I illustrate how Tohoku is museumifying through case studies of unmarked rituals becoming ‘unregistered heritage’, the ‘experientialization’ (taikenka) of declining industries, and preservation of ruined buildings as a new category of disaster heritage, shinsai ikō. In all cases, museumification endows precarious folk arts, industries, and objects with a second life as assets through which locals can represent themselves. This can help them to rebuild financially in the short-term. As a longer-term strategy, however, museumification fails to address the political-economic forces driving both Tohoku’s decline and heritage’s ongoing expansion there.

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About the speaker

Andrew Littlejohn is an assistant professor at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology of Leiden University. His teaching specialties include political ecology and environmental anthropology, qualitative methods, ethnographic media (particularly sonic ethnography), and the anthropology of Japan. Prior to joining Leiden, he held a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs’ Program on U.S.-Japan Relations at Harvard University, where he received his PhD in Social Anthropology with a secondary field in Critical Media Practice in 2017. He has also studied Cultural Anthropology at Oxford University (M.Phil.) and Japanese at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (B.A.). Alongside his teaching and research, he produces works of audiovisual media with a particular focus on the ethnographic and documentary possibilities of sound.

Listen to our Beyond Japan episode with Andrew Littlejohn on Disaster Heritage:

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