The Strange Child examines how the Japanese financial crisis of the 1990s gave rise to "the child problem," a powerful discourse of social anxiety that refocused concerns about precarious economic futures and shifting ideologies of national identity onto the young.
Andrea Gevurtz Arai's ethnography details the different forms of social and cultural dislocation that erupted in Japan starting in the late 1990s. Arai reveals the effects of shifting educational practices; increased privatization of social services; recessionary vocabulary of self-development and independence; and the neoliberalization of patriotism. Arai argues that the child problem and the social unease out of which it emerged provided a rationale for reimagining governance in education, liberalizing the job market, and a new role for psychology in the overturning of national-cultural ideologies. The Strange Child uncovers the state of nationalism in contemporary Japan, the politics of distraction around the child, and the altered life conditions of—and alternatives created by—the recessionary generation.
About the author
Andrea Gevurtz Arai is a cultural anthropologist and Lecturer in Japan and East Asian Studies at the University of Washington.
"The Strange Child offers a lucid and compassionate analysis of the increasingly uncertain lives of children and young adults in post-bubble Japan. With extreme rigor and effortless grace, Arai shows us how the institutions of the state, family, school, law enforcement, and psychology encroach into the lives of youth. The Strange Child is a must read for scholars of Japan studies and anyone interested in process of subject-formation deployed on children and young adults in the contemporary global political-economy of uncertainty."
—Miyako Inoue, Stanford University
"The Strange Child is a stunning interpretative articulation between historical analysis and detailed ethnographic reporting on an everydayness that brackets its history. In Arai's reckoning, Japan's late 20th century economic recession produced symptoms of unease that were unburdened on the figure of the child, undermining a postwar representation of a managed national identity promoting dependence. She has both constructed a brilliant accounting of how the child was constituted as a problem for restructuring a new collective identity and defined the role played by psychology and education in formulating a remedial ideology recommending greater independence to meet the demands of neoliberal capitalism."
—Harry Harootunian, Columbia University
"Andrea Arai's highly anticipated book how the Japanese state and a range of diverse institutions imbushowsed the figure of the 'child' with the myriad anxieties of economic recession, beginning in the 1990s. The Strange Child powerfully critiques the deleterious effects of neoliberal reforms on Japanese society, particularly children and youth, yet also reveals unexpected possibilities for creativity and community among the 'strange children' now transforming Japan in the aftermath of ongoing financial uncertainty, political restriction, and nuclear disaster."
—Marilyn Ivy, Columbia University
"Based upon initial fieldwork from 1999 through 2001, and extended with return visits to Tokyo, Kobe, and Kochi through 2014, this book has benefitted greatly from the processes of long-term research resulting in a complexly woven engagement with Japan as it scrambles to make sense of its own dislocation.The best monographs are those that generate questions because they draw us in and make us think. Indeed, The Strange Child does this."
—Christine R. Yano, Journal of Japanese Studies
"Arai's analysis is highly persuasive, weaving together her wealth of ethnographic data with insights drawn from her extensive reading of the educational, sociological, and cultural studies literature....Arai's contribution is to show how psychological pseudoscience and moralistic grandstanding have been used to frame mainstream understandings of the national predicament. She argues convincingly that these discourses have helped legitimize a radically regressive redistribution of wealth and opportunity and have engendered a disturbing tilt toward nationalism. Ind doing so, she brings considerable sophistication and depth to debate over education."
—Edward Vickers, Monumenta Nipponica
"The book is a valuable contribution to the ongoing debates within Japan and scholars of Japan regarding the role of public policy and corporate strategies in overcoming the apparent weaknesses in Japanese governance and schooling."––June A. Gordon, Pacific Affairs