Andrea Gevurtz Arai

Andrea Arai


Creative Spaces of Resistance in East Asia

A UW collaborative research project co-organized by Andea Gevurtz Arai and Jeff Hou (Built Environments). Supported by the Global Initiative Fund (2020-21), East Asia Center, Japan Studies, Korea Studies and Global Studies. This project includes an international conference, Part 1 remote in May (2020); Part 2 in-person in April 2021; an Edited Volume of conference papers and a Teach-in event for students and faculty in Spring, 2021. Details to follow.

Classes for Winter, 2022:

Anthropology of Modern Japan (JSIS 449/ANTH 443) and Changing Generations in East Asia (JSIS A 305A/B)
Details about courses available via Canvas and MyPlan
New future courses include: Social Transformation in East Asia: Focus on Gender, Labor and Environment  (JSIS 405)

Office Hours

By appointment.

Andrea Gevurtz Arai teaches Japan and East Asia anthropology and society courses in the Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington.

Arai’s first book, The Strange Child: Education and the Psychology of Patriotism in Recessionary Japan (Stanford U. Press, 2016) is a long-term fieldwork study of how education and psychology came together under the conditions of long term recession, creating “child” centered problems, “neoliberal patriotic” solutions, altering cultural ideologies, and socially re-engineering the relation between education and labor. The Strange Child tracks the deleterious effects of this dramatically altered national-cultural environment on the recessionary generation as well as their creative responses.

Arai has co-edited two volumes: Global Futures in East Asia (Stanford U. Press, 2013) w/Ann Anagnost. Arai’s chapter, “Notes to the Heart” in this volume engages with a moral’s curriculum for the age of recession and its relation to the 2006 revision of the Fundamental Law of Education enacted in 1947 alongside the new postwar constitution. Spaces of Possibility In, Between and Beyond Korea and Japan, w/Clark Sorensen, is the product of cross-national, collaborative fieldwork in Japan and South Korea.  Arai’s chapter in this volume focuses on the struggles over how to represent the colonial period and postcolonial landscapes at the Seodaemun Prison History Hall in Seoul and the Japan Folk Art Museum in Tokyo.

Arai is currently working on an article focused on (the late) Michiko Ishimure’s novel, Lake of Heaven. This piece engages with Ishimure’s environmental and ethnographic sensibilities of life in the Japanese peripheries that come together in Lake of Heaven to produce powerful representations of generational time and sonic inheritance.

In 2018-19, Arai developed and taught two new courses and organized a symposium on race, mixed race and ethnicity in Japan. She also developed a new course along the lines of her current ethnographic fieldwork project and collaborative documentary film in process.

Arai’s current fieldwork and second book project focuses on the social and cultural “development from below” movements in the peripheries, rural areas, outskirts of regional cities, and lower income sections of major cities in and beyond Japan. Japanese neoliberal reforms of the 1990s-2000 resulted in a drastically altered socio-economic urban landscape of labor restructuring, underemployment, income inequality, depression, suicide, low birth society, and over 8,500,000 vacant homes, schools and buildings. Further exacerbated by the 2011 triple disasters of Fukushima, these new realities inform and have transformed the lives, livelihood prospects and world views of the younger generations.

Arai’s multi-site ethnographic project investigates creative action responses to these various conditions. No longer able to fulfill and/or be satisfied with the former status quo of middle-class trajectories, increasing numbers of young Japanese are “reverse” migrating, or turning to peripheral areas of Japan to rebuild, reuse and recreate community, reimagine forms of work and society, in counter distinction to their parents and grandparent’s growth focused economic society and informed by the cultural and ecological movements around the world.

Arai’s second book and film will explore the what, where and how of this rebuilding, creative reuse of materials, pooling of knowledge and resources, cooperating with local people; sharing knowledge across East Asian spaces and forming horizontal collaborations across social class, age, gender and ethnicities.

*In tandem with this ethnographic project, I am working with the well-known Japanese documentary film maker, Hitomi Kamanaka, to create a visual piece.


  • Columbia University, Ph.D. Anthropology, 2004
  • Columbia University, MPhil, Anthropology, 1999
  • Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, M.A. Communications and Translation Studies, 1986
  • Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, TESL Post-Bac Certificate, 1984
  • Occidental College, Los Angeles, California, B.A. Sociology and French, 1978

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