Producing People Who Have No One: Child Welfare and Well-Being in Japan
Play • 1 hr 10 min
[Recorded 21st October 2020] Child welfare and well-being are fragile kin to each other. Such is the case in Japan, where the ethnographic data for this paper originate, but also across the world, as policy makers, caregivers, and people with experience in state care endeavor to imagine—and implement—child welfare systems that truly support well-being. Despite these efforts, social welfare systems too often “produce people who have no one,” in the words of one of my interlocutors. Child welfare policy and practice institutionalize particular visions of kinship relationships, with lasting effects on the people touched by these systems. Some of these systems cultivate the possibility for lasting relationships, and some do not. Relationships can injure and harm, but they can also transform. What are the conditions for a welfare system that nurtures well-being, that produces people who have people? This paper explores how cultural norms surrounding kinship, many deeply connected to national ideologies of Japanese identity, play out when kinship realities diverge from normative expectations surrounding nurturance and care. Originally presented on 21st October, 2020. Kathryn E. Goldfarb is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the Univeristy of Colorado Boulder. Kathryn earned her PhD from the University of Chicago in 2012 and has published widely on kinship, adoption and child welfare in Japan in journals such as Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Japanese Studies and Social Science and Medicine. She is currently preparing a book manuscript titled "Fragile Kinships: Child Welfare and Well Being in Japan"
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