Published: Feb. 25, 2016

Friday, January 22, 2016, 4:00 p.m.
Hale 230, CU-Boulder
Reception to follow, Hale 4th floor

Many Japanese aid workers and officials talk about the role of Japan as a model of development for other countries. In the Organization for Industrial, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement (OISCA), one of the oldest NGOs in Japan, staff members stressed the importance of sossen suihan or “leading by example” to transmit “Japanese values” to people in developing countries. In conducting trainings in organic farming as an aspect of sustainable development, they worked with the trainees in the fields, covered in mud, and becoming physical models that trainees could emulate. Focusing on OISCA’s activities in Myanmar, I examine practices and relations of imitation as a key way that aid workers imagined “making persons” (hitozukuri) who could bring about a sustainable future. But imitations in practice can never be exact copies of the original. I argue that Japanese and Burmese actors understood “development” as the ethical labor of tinkering with the slight differences that appeared in practices of imitation to make copies that were almost like the models, but not quite.

This is a research presentation by Dr. Chika Watanabe, Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester. Her research focuses on a Shinto-based Japanese NGO that nonetheless identifies as a nonreligious organization, neither religious nor secular. She is interested in understanding the logics and practices of Japanese aid in Southeast Asia through the lens of this organization.

Sponsored by the Center for Asian Studies and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Center to Advance Research and Teaching in the Social Sciences (CARTSS), the Department of Anthropology, and International Affairs. Brought to you with generous funding from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.