Waste, Environment, Japan

Troubled NaturesWhat does “environment” really mean in the complex, non-Western milieu of present-day Tokyo? How can anthropology contribute to the technical discussions and quantitative measures typically found in environmental studies? Author Peter Wynn Kirby explores these questions through a deep cultural analysis of waste in contemporary Japan. His parameters are intentionally broad—encompassing ideas of “nature,” attitudes toward hygiene, notions of health and illness, problems with vermin and toxic waste, processes of social exclusion, and reproductive threats. Troubled Natures: Waste, Environment, Japan concludes that how surroundings are conceived, invoked, and enacted is subjective, highly contextual, and under continual negotiation—with suggestive implications for anthropology, social science, and environmental studies generally.

“Kirby’s long-term ethnographic study takes the unlikely-sounding subject of waste (in all its forms) to a fascinating depth, demonstrating the sociocultural complexity of environmental issues, and the crucial contribution that an anthropological study such as this can make to the broader field. Here is a novel way to understand the changing nature of contemporary Japan, through insights into the lives of residents of its enormous capital city and their struggle to eliminate environmental pollution and maintain the purity on which Japan has long prided itself.” —Joy Hendry, Oxford Brookes University

November 2010 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3428-9 / $49.00 (CLOTH)