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Abstracts of dissertations

Amateurs' Riot! Alternative Lifestyles as Activism in Japanese Urban Spaces.
 
Author
Obinger, Julia S.
julia.obinger@uzh.ch
Germany

Supervisor
David Chiavacci
Japanese Studies, Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies
University of Zurich
Switzerland

Year of completion 2013

language of dissertation German

Keywords
  • alternative lifestyles
  • urban activism
  • Japan
  • ethnography
Areas of Research
  • Social Classes and Social Movements
  • Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management
  • Political Sociology
Abstract
Younger generations' reactions to socio-economic shift in light of globalization and neoliberal reform are central issues in present sociological research in Japan, but diagnoses often lack perspectives on social innovation and alternative lifestyles. While rising disparity and insecurity are persistent problems, current developments should also make way for alternative readings beyond "black-and-white" interpretations of the "winners" and "losers"-model of Japanese society.
Within this context, this thesis offers a tentative mapping of possibilities for alternative social participation and identity construction in urban Japan, based on a case study of individuals affiliated to the network Shirōto no Ran (Amateur's Riot) in Kōenji, Tōkyō. Though a marginal group of no more than a few dozen actors, I see them as an avant-garde in creating and living alternative forms of sociality in urban Japan. Based on their fundamental ideal of 'anarchy' as emancipation from oppressive social conventions and norms, their lifestyles radically disengage from traditional and idealized notions of career, success and wealth in Japan. But instead of practicing 'social exit' or striving for systemic revolution, they presently create new networks and spaces virtual and real, local and transnational within which they experiment with new modes of community building and economic agency, as well as flexible forms of political, social and cultural participation. It must be noted that one of their biggest successes so far has been the organization of the 2011 anti-nuclear demonstrations in Tokyo.
This thesis explores the motivations of the actors of Shirōto no Ran and interprets their alternative lifestyles against the background of contemporary Japanese society. The focus of this study lies on analyzing their alternative economic experiments, alternative spaces and alternative media production. Moreover, this thesis maps the activists alternative protests since 2005 and their role within the demonstrations after the triple disaster in 2011.