AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 412

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Session 412: Building Citizenship in Hard Times: The Citizen, the State, and Economic Crisis in Japan - Sponsored by The Japan Foundation, Center for Global Partnership

Organizer: Erin A. Chung, Johns Hopkins University, USA

Chair: Robert Pekkanen, University of Washington, USA

How do crises shape citizens’ conceptions of their civic identities, their relationship to the state and society, and their rights and duties? Past episodes of political and economic instability demonstrate that, in times of crisis, citizens may be mobilized to take greater responsibility for their local communities, social welfare programs may shrink or expand, and the state may broaden the community of citizens to incorporate previously excluded groups. With the focal point on Japan’s recent economic crisis, each paper in this panel grapples with a distinct aspect of citizenship to understand how citizenship is constructed and reconstructed in periods of economic decline. Tegtmeyer Pak and Martin’s papers focus on patterns of civic engagement through the lens of higher education and lifelong learning policies. Chung and Flowers’ papers analyze how Japan’s economic crisis has expanded the boundaries of citizenship for two historically excluded groups, foreign residents and women. Finally, Yamagishi’s paper examines how Japan’s economic decline has constricted a key institutionalized right of citizenship: health care. In lieu of a formal discussant, the panelists and audience members will address a common set of questions on citizenship posed by the chair (Pekkanen) at the beginning of the session. These questions will additionally be addressed by a linked panel on “Immigration and Integration of Foreign Laborers in Japan,” which would ideally be scheduled back-to-back to form a “mini-conference” on citizenship in Japan. The panel thus aims to broaden our understanding of citizenship, Japan’s recent economic crisis, and how we approach their study.

Contrasting Citizenship Norms in Japanese Higher Education
Katherine S. Tegtmeyer Pak, St. Olaf College, USA

Higher education in Japan has long reinforced a dominant model of citizenship organized around economic roles and status. In recent years some educators are reworking that model by introducing their students to ideals of civic engagement. In this paper, I compare and contrast norms of economic citizenship and participatory citizenship, as embodied in Japanese undergraduate education. My argument is based on case studies, including open-ended interviews, conducted at 17 Japanese universities in 2009-10. I first discuss how universities came to see their central purpose as linking students to high-prestige careers, and how that institutionalized economic citizenship. Success with an entrance exam certified young men as belonging to Japan’s elite, consequently reducing the meaning of education to a short interlude on the way to full socio-economic membership. The most recent round of university reforms, in 2004, maintained the old goal of valuing higher education for its ability to identify valuable "human resources"; yet it also triggered a larger reevaluation of higher education’s social purpose. Second, I show that as universities sort through policy and market changes, different ideals and practices about how graduates should contribute to society have emerged. Finally, I explain how educators believe their recent curricular innovations, inviting students to collaborate with non-profit organizations and local governments, teach students that economic/professional roles should be complemented with social and political responsibilities. I conclude by showing how alternative interpretations of higher education offer opportunities to expand commitment to civic participation, even if still realized imperfectly.

Mobile Knowledge: Adult Learning and Politics in Japan and the U.S.
Sherry L. Martin Murphy, U. S. Department of State, USA

In recent years, Japan and other democratic states revamped lifelong learning programs to achieve wide-ranging goals that include strengthening civil society, fostering state-society partnerships, creating flexible labor, and eliminating social disparities. How different lifelong learning regimes shape political, social and economic citizenship is increasingly important as nations weather the global economic crisis. Whether lifelong learning empowers citizens or reproduces inequality remains an unresolved academic and policy debate. This paper builds upon fieldwork in Japan and the United States to analyze how lifelong learning policies influence adult learners’ engagement in civil society and politics. These cases represent two “most different” types of learning regimes. Lifelong learning in the U.S. emphasizes vocational training while Japan’s Ministry of Education’s Lifelong Learning Bureau expanded its definition of “education” and “learning” to include sports and health activities, hobby groups, volunteerism, and local governments’ efforts to inform the public about welfare for the elderly, the importance of gender equality, machi tzukuri (rural revitalization), environmental protection, and traffic safety. The U.S. and Japanese cases are matched with an existing secondary literature on lifelong learning in the E.U.— the European lifelong learning model falls between these two other models, closer to Japan than to the United States—to specify conditions under which lifelong learning can create more participatory and inclusive publics in mature democracies.

A Voice for Foreigners? Non-National Citizenship and Membership in Japan and Korea
Erin A. Chung, Johns Hopkins University, USA

This paper analyzes how noncitizen political engagement in Japan and South Korea has shaped conceptions of national membership and citizenship as both countries grapple with the challenges of economic decline, rapidly aging populations, and declining birth rates. Given assumptions that Japan and Korea are immigrant-hostile societies, we would expect to find highly deprived foreign communities with little or no political voice. Yet, Korea became the first Asian country to grant local voting rights to foreign residents with the revision of the election law in 2005, a measure that has been rejected by other countries with more liberal immigration and citizenship policies such as France and Germany. In Japan, the New Komeito Party introduced a local voting rights bill in July 2000, which remains under debate in the Diet and has gained renewed support with the ascent of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in 2009. Given the resistance to alien voting rights in countries with more liberal immigration and citizenship policies, why would countries with highly restrictive policies toward foreigners grant them the most elusive of all citizenship rights? Based on focus group and interview data, Japanese and Korean newspaper articles, and public speech transcripts, this paper seeks to offer insights into how citizenship discourse, debates, and practices shape the civic identities of those living within the territorial and legal boundaries of a nation-state as well as the political opportunities for their participation in political development.

Gender and Civic Engagement in Japan
Petrice R. Flowers, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

How have contemporary economic challenges shaped civic engagement of Japanese women and youth? What are the long-term implications of this engagement for Japan’s political landscape? Economic decline in 1990s Japan had profound and lasting effects on women and young people’s employment opportunities. As these two groups faced decreasing opportunities in the private sector, there was a noted increase in the numbers, kinds, and strength of civil society organizations. Organizations concerned with the human rights of forced migrants were formed by young women whose civic engagement challenged status quo politics and political processes at the national level characterized by the dominance of aged men. This paper will analyze how women’s roles in creating, building, and sustaining advocacy organizations has contributed to the evolution of what promises to be a more inclusive political process on sensitive issues related to human rights refugees and trafficked persons in Japan.

The Cost Containment Policy in Health Care and the Japan Medical Association
Takakazu Yamagishi, Nanzan University, Japan

The Japanese government has adopted a cost containment policy in health care since 1983, when Japan realized that the economy would not grow as much as it did in the past few decades. One may conclude that the cost containment policy took place because the medical associations, which usually support raising fees, were politically weak. However, like the American Medical Association in the United States, the Japan Medical Association (JMA) is known as one of the most influential interest groups in Japan. My paper tackles the question of why Japan has adopted and maintained a cost containment policy despite JMA’s strength. This paper suggests that we should study the power of the JMA by carefully separating institutional and political contexts. The health care problem is one of the key issues that the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has promised to fix. But the DPJ has encountered difficulties in doing so because of historical, institutional, and political constraints. Therefore, this paper addresses broad questions about the relationship among the government, medical association, and citizens while it sheds light on the current “health care crisis” in Japan.