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

Emergence and Performance of Agency: Prospects for Next-Generation Anthropology from a Communication Perspective

Joint Research Coordinator SUGISHIMA Takashi

Reserch Theme List


agency, communication, next-generation anthropology


Many aspects of human life are rooted in communication, which is led primarily by those who possess some special and specific authority. During such communication, the following of rules and beliefs is checked and heretical interpretations are suppressed. At the same time, human and nonhuman agencies, emerge with vivid reality, and are seen as performers. In today’s world, spirits may still function as agents that cause illness, within communication centered on medicine men as authorities, but those engaged in modern medicine will deny that spirits are the cause of illness. In a similar way, for the gun control movement in the USA, guns are seen as agents that kill people, but the National Rifle Association strongly asserts a different view of their agency. This joint research project aims to develop a group of concepts related to how claims of agency are established, based on ethnographic research, while keeping in mind the equiprimordiality of agency and communication. In so doing, we will consider recent anthropological studies on things, engineering, bodies, and animals in relation to kinship, exchange, ritual, belief, healing and land tenure. We also aim to develop theoretical foundations for a next-generation anthropology encompassing a wealth of ethnographic data.