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"Families in Law: Ethnographic Perspectives on Contested Family Norms in Japan's Family Court System"


(July 25, 2014)

"Families in Law: Ethnographic Perspectives on Contested Family Norms in Japan's Family Court System"

Japan's April 2014 ascension to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of Child Abduction has focused attention on the ways laws structure, control, and assist families in Japan. That Convention, which concerns children of "international" relationships who have been abducted, applies to only a relatively small percentage of the family disputes processed through the Japanese family court system. So-called "domestic" divorces or abductions conflicts between two Japanese citizensdo not fall under this Convention's purview but are now, garnering public attention. These cases demonstrate shifting family norms: changing divisions of labor between spouses; new ideas about "good" parenting; and the role of fathers. I argue that ethnographic perspectives show how people are imagining, idealizing, and organizing their families, as well as state responses to these changes. Although a Japanese proverb suggests that "Law does not belong in families" [法は家庭に入らず], I argue that law is always already structuring families and, in the current moment, it reflects the debated and shifting sense of what makes a good family.


Friday, July 25, 2014 12:30 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.


Seminar Room #3, 9th Floor, The Japan Foundation
Address: 4-4-1 Yotsuya, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo Access
Tel. 03-5369-6085


Allison Alexy
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia / 2012 Abe Fellow


Keiko Hirao
Professor, Graduate School of Global Environment Studies, Sophia University / 2007 Abe Fellow


Masako Ishii-Kuntz
Professor, Graduate School of Humanities and Sciences, Ochanomizu University




Admission is free. Please bring your lunch.
To sign up, please email your information (name, affiliation, phone number, email address) at by July 23.
(When sending an e-mail, please enter a half-width character "@" instead of a full-width character "@.")
This event is organized by Social Science Research Council (SSRC). For further information, please contact Jean-Francois Roof of SSRC.
Tel: +81-(0)3-5369-6085
Fax: +81-(0)3-5369-6142


Dr. Allison Alexy’s research focuses on families, intimacy, and law. She received her PhD in Anthropology from Yale University in 2008; her Abe project is entitled: “When Citizenship and Kinship Intersect: Comparing Japanese and American responses to transnational child custody disputes”. She is currently revising a book manuscript based on earlier research, Divorce and the Romance of Independence in Contemporary Japan.

The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership
4-16-3 Yotsuya, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0004
Tel +81-(0)3-5369-6072 Fax +81-(0)3-5369-6042
The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, N.Y.
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