Japanese Festival, Melbourne 2015.

Photo: Zuleyka Zevallos.


[A young girl dressed in a light purple kimono with a large red bow stands in the foreground speaking with a friend who is another woman of colour, though she is not in costume. A crowd of people walk past in the background.]

I was a five-year-old. My parents told—my father told us that we were going on a long vacation to a place called Arkansas. It was an adventure. I thought everyone took vacations by leaving home in a railroad car with sentries, armed soldiers at both ends of the car, sitting on wooden benches. And whenever we approached a town, we were forced to draw the curtains, the shade. We were not supposed to be seen by the people out there. We thought that was the way things happened. We saw people crying, you know, and we thought, “Well, why are they crying? Daddy said we’re going on a vacation.”

“USA Chandelier” by Ken and Julia Yonetani, Australia/Japan 2013. Now showing at the Powerhouse Museum.

This is one of a 31 part installation called Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nuclear Nations. The art was created in response to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. It is made from uranium glass beads and crystals with fluorescent lights.


[Video: the chandelier is suspended against a dark background. It is made from bright fluorescent green and purple lights.]

Source: The Other Sociologist.

Haka music at the Sydney Taiwan Festival. This song is about the people under the sun. The band uses a mix of modern and traditional instruments. The children who cone onstage at the end are from am Indigenous ethic group who also have a stall here. 

Source: Other Sociologist.

Japan’s Disposable Workers

Shiho Fukada via Pulitzer Prize Centre

Shiho Fukada is a photojournalist with a BA in Literature. The video below covers her work on Japan’s “disposable workers” – people who are precariously employed in casual jobs. They are underpaid, working long hours but without any benefits of full time employment. Fukada argues that despite Japan’s booming economy, the nation has transitioned from a society of workers who grew up expecting full-time, secure employment, to a workforce that now treats people as “disposable bodies” who can be flung away without notice. Many of these workers are homeless, some of them sleeping on the streets, or they seek refuge in 24 hour internet cafés as they have no other place to rest in between their shifts.

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Fukada argues that the relatively privileged group of white collar businessmen (“salary men”) can also be classified as disposable workers. While on the surface, they might be seen to have secure full-time employment, many are driven to suicide, seeing no way out of the endless hours of work. Working less hours is no longer an option for them, as they fear that they may lose their jobs. This has contributed to a rise in recorded suicide rates, which Fukada reports has climbed to 30,000 suicides over the past 15 years. Social isolation, despair and exhaustion contributes to this rise in suicide among male workers. One woman said about her husband suicide: “Most  fathers in Japan are workaholics. Many salarymen can’t share dinner with their family members. It’s an abnormal work situation where they work until midnight and go to work the next morning.” The personal trauma and grief of such suicides is compounded by the social impact on families. Wives and children are left to deal with the debt, loneliness, secrecy and shame that follows suicides. Some of these families report being harassed by the companies that their husband worked for; the families are intimidated to discourage them from seeking compensation.

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Young women also make up a troubling sub-category of disposable workers, with university graduates going into hostess bar work, as they are unable to find professional jobs in their fields of qualification. Fukada reports that these women are stuck in “low-paying, dead end” jobs. She continues:

Critics see women as the embodiment of Japan’s productivity problem. One of the world’s best educated labour forces, stuck in banal jobs that do little to grow the economy. Women see no opportunities to maximise their potential. 

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Watch the video to see Fukada’s haunting images, and listen to her discussion of this important sociological issue. This work documents the rapid increase of the “underclass” in one of the world’s most advanced societies. The concept of “underclass” is used in sociology to describe groups in society who experience the greatest levels of socio-economic disadvantage and exploitation. Fukada’s photography offers a visual critique of the hidden (or ignored) underside of economic and technological progress.  

More on the sociology of alienation and work on my blog.

Credits:

Images via Pulitzer Centre (1 and 2) and the above video (3 and 4). 

Link to video: @26pglt

Sociology of the National Arboretum

Playground at the National Arboretum Canberra

One of the themes of my visual sociology is the representation of science. Conservation is as much about social practices as it is about earth science, biology and other natural sciences. Today’s post is about the sociology of the National Arboretum, which sits on Ngunawal country. Ngunawal people are the traditional custodians of this part of Acton, west of the city in Canberra. Less than a seven minute drive central business district, this is one of the world’s largest arboretums for rare and endangered trees. I am no arborist. I cannot even claim to be a fan of gardening. I was interested in the Arboretum first in an attempt to capture a visual sociology of Canberra, and second to see how people interact with this place as a science centre. The focus of my post today is on the social dynamics of the Arboretum, especially on community aspects of conservation and the trees that drew the greatest interest amongst the crowds I saw: the Bonsai and Penjing Collection .
National Arboretum (18)

Continue reading Sociology of the National Arboretum