The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

The Anthropology of Supporting: Constructing Global Reciprocity

Reserch period: October 2009-March 2013 / Core project: Anthropological Studies of Inclusion and Autonomy Coordinator SUZUKI Motoi

Reserch Theme List

Research Objectives

Today, the restructuring of social relationships is often required against the backdrop of economic globalization. The question to be posed now is: What type of society should be constructed if we are to include the people who have been excluded from the conventional welfare state model, in order to ensure they take ownership of their own life? In opposition to this idea, the process of globalization has also allowed rapid, global information-sharing concerning the predicament of people in certain regions, which has given rise to various cooperative activities. In this research, we focus our attention on “supporting” as a keyword and try to understand the nature of the modern world in terms of the dynamic process of exclusion and inclusion, casting light on this process. In so doing, we aim to compare, from an ethnographic viewpoint, various support activities undertaken to help people suffering from the adverse effects of the globalization process, and envisage the idea of global reciprocity.

Themes and Activities

This research consists of general study on the theoretical and practical aspects of “Anthropology of Supporting,” along with a case-specific study addressing individual support activities.
The general study pursues the themes of “envisioning global reciprocity” and “practical anthropology for support activities.” The former theme, first of all, focuses on cultural differences as a cause of exclusion on one hand, and inter-cultural consideration as a consequence of inclusion and autonomy on the other. Secondly, this theme addresses “ inclusion and autonomy” not as a domestic issue, but as a global, cross-border issue. Consequently, in pursuing this theme, we plan to question how cultural differences between providers and recipients of support are recognized, negotiated, and incorporated into the global experience in support activities geared toward inclusion and autonomy. On the other hand, the study of the latter theme is meant to extensively examine the roles of applied and practical anthropology within this age of globalization. Building on the research achievements of practical anthropology accumulated by the National Museum of Ethnology, we hope to present a method of practical anthropology or anthropological support activities to better serve the needs of today’s society.
This case-specific ethnographic study addresses support activities related to such issues as 1) fair trade, 2) international cooperation volunteers, and 3) support for stateless persons. The research topic on well-being and care that was formerly associated with this project, is being implemented from fiscal 2011as an independent Core Research Project.

2010 Results

Research-related events
  1. An international symposium, Towards a Society that Lives in Hope: Thoughts on Well-being and Civil Society in Sweden and Japan, was held at Minpaku on November 7, 2010. Suzuki Nanami was in charge. Invited guests included Eva Jeppsson Grassman (NISAL [National Institute for the Study of Ageing and Later Life], Lincöping University, Sweden) and Miyamoto Taro (Professor, Graduate School of Law, Hokkaido University). Discussion focused on the role of civil society in promoting well-being in low birthrate, ageing societies, comparing the cases of Sweden and Japan.
  2. An international symposium, Human Rights and Support for Stateless People around the World: Japan's Role, was held at Minpaku on February 27, 2011. Chen Tien-shi was in charge. Invited guests included Benoit Meslin (OPFRA), Kritaya Archanvanitkul (Mahidol University Institute for Population and Social Research, Abe Kohki (Kanagawa University), and Bongkot Napaumporn (Bangkok Legal Clinic for Legal Personality and Rights of Persons). Discussion focused on the treatment of stateless persons, comparing the cases of France, Thailand and Japan.
  3. An international symposium, Constructing “Ordinary Life”: Lessons from Peace Building Practices in Africa, was held at Minpaku on March 5-6, 2011. Suzuki Motoi and Naito Naoki were the organizers. On March 5, guest speakers Nadarajah Shanmugaratnam (Norwegian University of Life Sciences), Cindy Horst (Peace Research Institute, Oslo), Sato Akira (Institute of Developing Economies), and Charles Ukeje (Obafemi Awolowo University) discussed forced migration and human security issues. On March 6 there were presentations by Murao Rumiko (Kyoto University), Maki Momoka (Tsuda College), Enomoto Tamara (Tokyo University), Nawata Hiroshi (Research Institute for Humanity and Nature), Komine Shigetsugu (Osaka University), Murotani Ryutaro (Japan International Cooperation Agency), and Kuwana Megumi (Ochanomizu Women's University), who provided perspectives on the experience of local communities following conflict and discussed how best to provide development assistance to people living in these conditions.
  4. Other events included a panel at the Inter-University Research Institute symposium held at Bellesalle Akihabara, Tokyo, on November 20, 2010.
Overview of research results

During the project's second year, we were able to hold three research meetings related to ethnographic research on global support activities. The topics addressed included support for the elderly in ageing societies, support for the stateless, and support for both international and internal refugees who need to find new homes or return to their former homes. All three were international symposiums, the topics of which were chosen corresponding to the three main focuses of the project, and researchers and experts from both inside and outside Japan exchanged views and undertook comparisons of Japan and other parts of the world. Originally, no symposium had been planned for March 5-6, but the cooperation and support of the National Institutes for the Humanities made it possible.

Overview of research results
  1. Suzuki Motoi “The Anthropology of Supporting: Constructing Global Reciprocity,” Minpaku Tsushin 129: 8-9. 2010.
  2. Suzuki Motoi “Thinking About Global Reciprocity,” Minpaku Monthly 348: 10-11. 2010.
  3. Suzuki, Motoi “The Anthropology of Supporting: Constructing Global Reciprocity,” MINPAKU Anthropology Newsletter 31: 8-9. 2010.

2009 Results

Research-related events

On October 17, 2009, Minpaku hosted an Academic Exchange Forum of the Graduate University for Advanced Studies. Suzuki Motoi produced the poster that publicized the scope of the project. This was followed on December 21-23, 2009, by a preparatory meeting for those with shared interests in our project's topics.

This meeting was followed by an official workshop, The Scope of the Anthropology of Supporting, held at Minpaku on February 21, 2010. Suzuki Motoi presented an overview of the anthropology of supporting, following which he, Suzuki Nanami and Chen Tien-shi reported on their individual research. This workshop was held in cooperation with the Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology (JASCA) with members of the association among the participants. Here is where the concept for anthropological research on supporting was formulated.

On March 2-3, 2009, an international symposium, Fair Trade as Global Communication: Commodities Carry Stories, was held at Minpaku. Fair trade was identified as a topic for the anthropology of supporting. Six overseas guests participated in a vigorous discussion of the current state and future of fair trade.

Overview of research results

Being the first year of the project, we tackled our first research objective, i.e., exploring the outlook for reciprocity on a global scale. Reviewing previous research on inclusion and autonomy, a theme of the core research project, we found that, 1) social inclusion is often used in opposition to social exclusion; 2) these concepts, that is social inclusion and exclusion, have appeared in response to the crisis of the welfare state in Western Europe; 3) there is little comparative research on social inclusion in Asia, Africa and the Americas; 4) in Japan, these concepts are used mainly in the context of social welfare studies; and 5) there is a lack of research investigating the relationship of social inclusion to autonomy. Taking into account the expertise of our research participants, we decided to focus our research on how supporting promotes both inclusion and autonomy on four topics: fair trade, international volunteer activities, networking as a source of support in ageing societies, and assistance provided to stateless persons.

  1. Poster “Anthropology of Supporting” presented to the Academic Exchange Forum of the Graduate School for Advanced Studies held on October 17, 2009.
  2. Workshop on the scope of the anthropology of supporting, held on February 21, 2010. Presenters included Suzuki Motoi (Minpaku), Suzuki Nanami (Minpaku), Chen Tien-shi (Minpaku). Commenters were Konagaya Yuki (Minpaku) and Ishii Yoko (University of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo). The moderator was Shirakawa Chihiro (Minpaku).
  3. The international symposium, “Fair Trade as Global Communication: Commodities Carry Stories”, held at Minpaku on March 2-3, 2010. On March 2, the presenters were Ian Bretman (FLO), Claribel David (WFTO), Carmen K. Iezzi (Fairtrade Federation), Jean-Marie Krier (Komment), and Bruce Crowther (Fairtrade Foundation). The moderator was Suzuki Motoi (Minpaku). The presenters on March 3 were Sakai Yasuhiro (Fairtrade Promoters), Kobuki Takashi (Fair Trade Samasama). The moderator was Suzuki Motoi (Minpaku).