1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Greeting the Dead: Managing Solitary Existence in Japan

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  • Reception follows in Brooks Hall Commons 

At a moment when the population is declining, marriage and birth rates are down, one-third of people live alone while one-fourth are 65 or older, and reports of “lonely death” (of solitary people whose bodies are discovered days, or weeks, after death) are commonplace, the social ecology of existence is undergoing radical change in 21st century Japan. While long-term bonds—to company, family, locale—were once the earmarks of its “group-oriented society,” today it is living, and dying, alone that marks Japan’s new era of “single-ification” and “disconnected society” (muen shakai). How the rise of single-ification affects the management of death—both those already dead as well as those at risk of dying in/from solitude—is the subject of this talk. Looking at new practices of burying/memorializing the dead, new trends in both single and solitary lifestyles, and new initiatives in dealing with suicide, I consider how the neoliberal shift to “self-responsibility” plays out in the everyday rhythms of being with/out others for post-social Japanese. Precarity into, and beyond, death.



Event Date: 
Friday, 23 October 2015 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Anne Allison
Speaker Title: 
Robert O. Keohane Professor of Cultural Anthropology Professor of Women’s Studies Duke University