1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Beyond Mutuality: Getting Divorced in Contemporary Japan


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This chapter and presentation come from my book manuscript examining experiences of divorce in contemporary Japan. Not only has the divorce rate increased to above 33% but in the last twenty years divorce has shifted from something that women avoided to the object of many women’s fantasies.  “Beyond Mutuality” analyzes the legal processes required to accomplish divorce based on participant observation and ethnographic interviews.  Because over ninety percent of divorces are legally labeled “mutual” and do not require the involvement of judges or lawyers, I examine how conflict, mediation, and bribery are pushed into private spheres.  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 or making no financial demands. I describe what this legal terminology of “mutuality” obscures and how divorces that appear to occur with no influence from family law are intimately, and constantly, shaped by legal categories and expectations.  The chapter analyzes how legal patterns and processes suggest particular family forms as ideal, and the problems that people face when their experiences deviate from these normative ideals.

  • Faculty Meeting Lounge, UVA School of Law
    Lunch will be provided
    Kindly RSVP at dg2cq@virginia.edu by Friday, March 16, 2012
Event Date: 
Monday, 19 March 2012 - 12:00pm to 12:15pm
Speaker: 
Allison Alexy
Speaker Title: 
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Virignia
Event Type: