Andrea Gevurtz Arai

Acting Assistant Professor, Interim Chair of the Korea Studies Program (2023-24)
Andrea Arai


2023-24 courses:

Fall (2023)

Modern Korean Society (JSIS 484/584)
Social Transformations in East Asia (JSIS 405/ANTH 443)

Winter (2024)

Changing Generations in East Asia (JSIS 305)
Modernity and the Global South (JSIS 546)

Spring (2024)

Anthropology of Modern Japan (JSIS 449/ANTH 443)

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 multi-site fieldwork study of the social and cultural effects of the bursting of the financial bubble in the early 1990s in Japan and the protracted recession that followed. This ethnography delves deeply into how the recession provided the conditions for government and corporate “neoliberalization,” replacing former support and security in education and labor with new logics of self-responsibility, self-development and patriotism, privatizing public services; shifting cultural ideologies and producing a profound “uneasiness” about everyday life. The book traces the way that the young became the subjects of these unfamiliar or “strange” conditions and the objects of blame for not being able to fulfill new requirements of human capital development. The Strange Child tracks the hardships of this altered national-cultural environment as well as introduces some of the surprisingly creative responses of the recessionary generations. 

Arai has edited, co-edited and contributed to three East Asia volumes: Spaces of Creative Resistance: Social Change Projects in 21st Century East Asia (July, 2022-Digital and Print Teaching Volume and Pre-publication Draft) is the product of an interdisciplinary collaborative group of U.S. and East Asia based scholars and scholar-activists, and a May 2021 workshop organized by Arai and Jeffrey Hou (UW Built Environments) and supported by the UW Global Initiative Fund and Title VI East Asia Center. Arai also wrote the Introduction, “Shifting Contexts, Creative Responses” and chapter, “DIY Sensibilities, Eco-Aesthetics and Women’s Projects in Post 3.11 Japan.” Spaces of Possibility In, Between and Beyond Korea and Japan (UW Press, 2016) 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. 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.  

Arai’s 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 Japan. The second decade of Japanese neoliberal reforms have resulted in a social landscape of underemployment, income inequality, “social disconnection,” falling birth rates and over 8,500,000 vacant homes, schools and buildings. Further exacerbated by March, 2011 triple disasters of Fukushima, these realities inform and have transformed the lives, livelihood prospects and world views of the younger generations. Arai’s ethnographic project investigates creative action responses to these 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 “turning away” from prescribed paths of social reproduction (including exiting salaried positions) and “turning to” environmentally conscious, gender and income equalizing DiY collective projects of social change. Informed by socio-political and ecological movements around the world, these projects challenge former gendered, spatial and environmental hierarchies of center and periphery and employ aesthetics of “rebuild, reuse and rescue” to reimagine forms of work and society, in contrast to the growth focused model of past generations. Arai’s second book describes the how, what and where of the innovative and imaginative rebuilding, creative reuse of materials, sharing of ideas, resources and knowledge, film and social media outreach and horizontal collaborations across social class, age, gender and ethnicities.

Arai is working on two separate articles: one on Hitomi Kamanaka’s documentary films and notions of eco-disaster, sacrifice zones and the interrelation between documentary film and social activism. The second focuses on notions of care, kin and nature in Michiko Ishimure’s novel, Lake of Heaven and Erika Kobayashi’s “Precious Stones.” This piece looks at intersections in these authors’ environmental and ethnographic sensibilities of life and thinking about and from the Japanese peripheries. 

Arai is part of a new collaborative panel and project on “Aesthetics of Activism and  Anthropology of the Possible” for the American Anthropology Association annual meeting in Seattle, WA, in November, 2022. Her paper is entitled: “The Performative Trans-Localities of “Standing-Together” (omdim b’yachad, naqif maean) in Israel-Palestine “


  • 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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