Wounded Futures: Pain, Sympathy, Solidarity - Japanese Sanitation Workers among the Dalit of India

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Monday, February 10th, 2014

Monday, February 10, 20143:00PM - 5:00PM208N, North House, Munk School of Global Affairs
1 Devonshire Place
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In 2006, a small group of Japanese sanitation workers traveled from Tokyo to Chennai, India to meet with a group they saw as potential comrades – the Dalit. Over the course of several days, these groups shared stories of pain and discrimination – the rigors of marginalization told alongside triumphs of resistance.

My talk focuses on the politics and aesthetics of this solidarity project between the Japanese Buraku people and the Dalit of South Asia. In it, I develop solidarity as a project of rendering groups – here, the Buraku and the Dalit – commensurate through the operation of extending sympathy. I argue that the viability of political solidarity hangs on the cultivation of a “fellow feeling,” a formative process of learning to feel oneself through the imagined mediating gaze of another. I examine the rules that permit and constrain that sympathetic traffic, as well as the moments that lead to its blockage. This talk complicates notions of circulation and commensuration from linguistic and economic anthropology, and it critically engages work on recognition and vulnerability. My conclusion advances an argument for socio-historical connectedness as opposed to liberal sympathy.

Joseph Hankins is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on the politics of stigmatized labor in Japan. He earned his PhD in anthropology in 2009 from the University of Chicago and is, for the current academic year, a member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.


Lisa Qiu


Joseph Hankins
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego

Main Sponsor

Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies


Asian Institute


Centre for South Asian Studies

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