Research

Most of my research is dedicated to an ethnographic experiment of mapping differences and similarities on the move. This starts from the simple (but mostly overlooked) fact, that distinguishing between different things, bodies, cultures, persons or values is an ever changing engagement with those very elements. It is this fluid and partial mode of knowing which I mean to highlight by the notion of ‘metabologies,’ a concept that tries to establish permeability between embodied experience and technoscientific practices. Mind that the way I use it here, “metabologies” is a biological concept only as far as its place of origin is concerned. The consequences go far beyond biology and medicine.

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Fields of Interest

  • ethnographic theory
  • medical anthropology
  • science and technology studies (sts)
  • anthropology of pharmaceuticals
  • planetary health
  • comparative methodology

Areas of Interest

Medicinal Plants. Currently, I am developing a project to investigate the co-constitution of things and values in the development and use of herbal medications in Japan and Southeast Asia. The alterity of Vietnamese, Japanese and/or Chinese medical traditions, and scientific explanations depends on the scale—global, local, regional, biological etc.—in which they deploy themselves: the industrial production of extracts that target global health problems; the micropropagation of engendered species in a laboratory; or the cultivation and naming of plants in a garden. By highlighting the entanglement of different medical traditions in the process of producing and metabolising new medications, my aim is to explore the possibilities and challenges of “ethnographic comparisons.”

Diabetes. Diabetes is a disease in which different realities are linked together in the daily quest of understanding them. Patients, their doctors and the many researchers I worked with in different parts of Japan during the past decade see and live their bodies as a metabolic system (taisha) that keeps transforming disparate properties into each other: food and disease, sugar and life, outside and inside, Japanese and Caucasian. The point here is to show that it is through various acts of eating, calculating glucose  levels, or studying the genetic basis of diabetes that such heterogenous qualities come to be appreciated and embodied in their intensive relations.

Japonisme. In the past half century, diabetes has transformed from an obscure and acute condition to one of the paradigmatic issues of biomedicine in Japan, involving the interaction between state-of-the-art science and public health intervention on a massive scale. Different facts and experiences that structure the knowledge about this chronic condition emerge within particular interferences between scientific and cultural attributions. Some repertoires invoke “Japanese genes,” while others inscribe a stereotypical male diabetes patient, the sarariman, or company employee. The puzzle is this: how do these different subjects of molecular biology, epidemiology, endocrinology, etc. come to stand for the same disease, if they do at all?

Method. The anthropological challenge then is how to reinvent the conceptual tool of difference; how to move from static notions of identity and distinction to the recognition of transformation and connection. What is emerging from this ‘metabolizing of anthropology’  is a method of following the movement of difference through existential and disciplinary boundaries.

Recent (and selected) publications

for a more complete list click here

2021 Toxic Remedies: On the cultivation of medicinal plants and urban ecologies. East Asian Science, Technology and Society 15(2): 192-210, 2021. doi: 10.1080/18752160.2021.1897738

2021 (小笠原理恵と共著)「医療とレジリエンス——新興感染症からの試論」『未来共創』第8号:123–143頁。 (Healthcare and Resilience in Pandemic Times, Mirai Kyōsō Journal) doi: 10.50829/miraikyoso.8.0_123

2020 “Viral Scaling.” Hot Spots, Fieldsights, June 23. https://culanth.org/fieldsights/viral-scaling.  

2020「共に治す——人新世における人間と植物の共生をめぐって」『共生学宣言』栗本英世・河森正人・志水宏吉・檜垣立哉・モハーチ ゲルゲイ(編)、275–294頁、大阪大学出版会、2020(“Healing Together: Plant-human relations in the Anthropocene.” In Kyosei Studies Manifesto, Kokichi Shimizu, Masato Kawamori, Eisei Kurimoto, Tatsuya Higaki, Gergely Mohacsi, eds. pp. 275–294. Osaka: Osaka University Press, 2020)ISBN: 9978-4-87259-708-0

2017薬物効果のループ—西ハンガリーにおける臨床試験の現場から」『文化人類学』81(4):614–631頁, 2017 (Pharmaceutical Loops: The Entanglement of Care and Experiment in Clinical Trials in Western Hungary, Japanese Journal of Cultural Anthropology)

Recent (and selected) academic papers

for a more complete list click here

2021 December 15, “Learning to heal the planet: The case of pharmaceutical pollution”—Paper presented at the Ecosystem Services Partnership (ESP) Asia Conference, held in Nagasaki, Japan (remote).

2021 March 5, “Fitter, Happier, More Polluted: Chronic disease and environmental drugging in Japan”—Paper presented at the Conference-Workshop Chronic Living: Quality, Vitality and Health in the 21st Century held in Copenhagen, Denmark (remote).

2020 Aug 21, “Locating Matters”—Invited talk in the Subplenary at the International Conference of 4S Annual Meeting, Virtual Prague, Czech Republic.

2019 Dec 11, “Planting the Seeds of Resilience: Medicinal plants and posthuman experiments in Japan”―Paper presented at the Conference-Workshop Republic of Plants, Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai, India.

2019 Sep 5, “Experimenting with NatureCultures.” In NatureCulture, created by Grant Jun Otsuki, Gergely Mohacsi, Miki Namba, Liv Krause, Asli Kemiksiz and Émile St-Pierre. Innovating STS Gallery Exhibit, curated by Aalok Khandekar and Kim Fortun. Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science. New Orleans, USA.