Japan, Alcoholism, and Masculinity

Japan, Alcoholism, and Masculinity : Suffering Sobriety in Tokyo

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Depictions of an alcohol-saturated Japan populated by intoxicated salarymen, beer dispensing vending machines, and a generally tolerant approach to public drunkenness, typify domestic and international perceptions of Japanese drinking. Even the popular definitions of Japanese masculinity are interwoven with accounts of personal alcohol consumption in public settings; gender norms that exclude and marginalize the alcoholic. And yet the alcoholic also exists in Japan, and exists in a manner revealing of the dominant processes by which alcoholism and addiction are globally influenced, understood, and classified. As such, this book examines the ways in which alcoholism is understood, accepted, and taken on as an influential and lived aspect of identity among Japanese men. At the most general level, it explores how a subjective idea comes to be regarded as an objective and unassailable fact. Here such a process concerns how the culturally and temporally specific treatment methodology of Alcoholics Anonymous, upon which much of Japan's other major sobriety association, Danshukai, is also based, has come to be the approach in Japan to diagnosing, treating, and structuring alcoholism as an aspect of individual identity. In particular, the gendered consequences, how this process transpires or is resisted by Japanese men, are considered, as they offer substantial insight into how categories of illness and disease are created, particularly the ramifications of dominant forms of such categorizations across increasingly porous cultural borders. Ramifications that become starkly obvious when Japan's persistent connection between notions of masculinity and alcohol consumption are considered from the perspective of the sober alcoholic and sobriety group member.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 182 pages
  • 149.86 x 231.14 x 17.78mm | 408.23g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0739192043
  • 9780739192047

Review quote

Anthropologist Christensen grapples with what it means to be an alcoholic man in recovery in Japan. He traces the history of drinking alcohol, even to the point of inebriation, to concepts of masculinity. People passed out in the street might be looked at with sympathy or self-recognition and be considered 'normal' within the urban landscape. Yet the man in recovery who refuses to share in the camaraderie of drinking may be looked at as aberrant. Much of the book describes the sobriety movement in Japan, focusing on AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and Dansukai, the Japanese-developed sobriety group that, like AA, is based on abstinence and group support. Christensen's book contributes to the small cross-cultural literature on AA, which, as a mutual help approach to alcoholism, has traveled around the world making accommodations as it has been embraced by various cultures. This book is best understood by students who also have a background in Japanese studies...Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. CHOICE Paul A. Christensen's new book is a thoughtful ethnography of drinking, drunkenness, and male sociability in modern urban Japan...Throughout the study, Christensen offers an extraordinarily sensitive treatment of the struggle of individual men to build a new selfhood while their sense of masculinity, and of a place in society, have been dismantled. New Books Network The strength of this text is that it is tightly focused on masculinity and men within the context of alcoholism and sobriety in Japan and it rarely strays out of the ethnographic moment to dwell on history or social theory...[This book gives] great insight into the complexities of alcohol consumption and abuse in contemporary Japan. Japanese Studies This is a good book...This is a fascinating book to read, exploring a wholly new ethnographic area of research. For anyone wanting to know about alcohol and alcoholism in Japan, this book provides a very good place to begin. Social Science Japan Journal This readable and thought-provoking study of alcoholism in Japan revolves around a fundamental dilemma confronting Japanese alcoholics in their attempts to achieve sobriety. American Anthropologist Toasted salarymen weaving through nighttime streets and swaying drunkenly on the last train of the evening is a common enough sight in Japan. Christensen's study explores the cultural history surrounding alcohol consumption, as well as the awkward understandings and treatments for alcoholics. By tracing the way drinking is intertwined with notions of masculinity and male sociality, Christensen exposes the damaging struggles faced by men who want to dodge expectations that they imbibe with others. This is a superb book that addresses a gap in our knowledge about contemporary Japan. -- Laura Miller, University of Missouri, St. Louis Drinking in Japan is a powerful cultural imperative and social lubricant, especially for being and becoming a man. Christensen looks beyond the camaraderie to show how easy it is to drink up and how challenging it is to dry out in contemporary Japan. He provides a sensitive and moving analysis of the social worlds of drinking, of those individuals who are led to excess, and of the sobriety organizations that provide pathways to living in recovery for those desperate enough and brave enough to confront their condition. His ethnography of alcoholism and alcohol abstention as daily experience, lived identity, and organized support is a thought-provoking contribution to Japan studies and a rare analysis of the cultural framing of substance abuse and recovery therapies. -- William W. Kelly, Yale Universityshow more

About Paul A. Christensen

Paul Christensen is assistant professor of anthropology at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.show more

Table of contents

Chapter 1: Drying Out Chapter 2: Divine Drink Chapter 3: Sobriety and Disease Chapter 4: Sober Groupings Chapter 5: Moral Failures Chapter 6: Ten Yen Coins Chapter 7: Futsu or Fushigi: Normally Drunk and Oddly Sober Chapter 8: The Imperial Drunkardshow more

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