The Contemporary Japan Group at the Institute of Social Science (ISS, or Shaken), University of Tokyo, welcomes you to a lecture by
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Constructing Mutuality: Family Law Process and Divorce in Contemporary Japan
DATE AND PLACE
Thursday, May 8 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Akamon Sōgō Kenkyūtō Room 549, Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo, Hongo Campus, University of Tokyo
On the face of it, the legal process of getting divorced in contemporary Japan looks both simple and disconnected from the legal system. Since the war, the vast majority of divorces have occurred with one simple form. To get divorced, both spouses sign this form, stamp it with their legal name stamps (inkan), and submit it to a government office. With this form, spouses are acknowledging both that they want to be divorced and that they have already agreed to the terms of the divorce. As revealed by my ethnographic research, such relative bureaucratic ease stands in sharp contrast to the debates, negotiations, and conflicts that occur as people work to accomplish a divorce. Because legal precedents require that both spouses agree to divorce, many protracted negotiations occur as a spouse who wants to divorce attempts to convince the other to agree to it, often by promising material property, making no financial demands, or offering other bribes. Although many of these negotiations occur in divorces that are eventually legally registered as “mutual,” that eventual mutuality masks substantial private conflict and negotiation that are themselves intimately, and constantly, shaped by legal categories and ideologies. In this presentation, I argue that the standard process of getting a divorce, and the legal structures that underlie it, reflect ideological constructions of families as coherent social units even at the moment they are dividing. In practical terms, this means that the Family Law Court is unlikely to attempt to resolve, or aid in the resolution of, extant problems within in any given family.
Allison Alexy is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Virginia. She holds a BA from the University of Chicago and PhD from Yale University. This presentation draws from her book manuscript Divorce and the Romance of Independence in Contemporary Japan. With Richard Ronald, she co-edited Home and Family in Japan: Continuity and Transformation (Routledge 2010). This year, she is based at Waseda University and supported by the Abe Fellowship while she conducts research on abductions and child custody disputes involving Japanese citizens.
CONTEMPORARY JAPAN GROUP The ISS Contemporary Japan Group provides English-speaking residents of the Tokyo area with an opportunity to hear cutting-edge research in social science and related policy issues, as well as a venue for researchers and professionals in or visiting Tokyo to present and receive knowledgeable feedback on their latest research projects. Admission is free and advance registration is not required. Everyone is welcome. For more information, please visit our website: http://web.iss.u-tokyo.ac.jp/cjg/ or contact Gregory W. NOBLE (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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