Emma Cook degree icon

Associate Professor

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Research Faculty of Media and Communication, Hokkaido University

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Feel free to contact me at:

cook [at] imc.hokudai.ac.jp

Health, Illness, and Society in Contemporary Japan (not currently offered)

This course, drawing on work done in medical anthropology, explores conceptions of health and illness in Japan. Through lectures and a variety of readings, we will explore approaches to the body, health and illness both theoretically and empirically. Questions we will ask include, what constitutes well-being and illness? How these are formulated and dealt with within Japanese society?


Weekly Schedule (Not offered in 2016-2017)

Week 1 Introduction

A general introduction to the course, to medical anthropology as a discipline, and to the goals of the course.

No reading due

Week 2 Academic approaches to the body/health and illness

No reading due.

Week 3 Traditional medicine and biomedicine in Japan

Reading due: Ohnuki-Tierney (1984). Illness and Culture in Contemporary Japan. Chapter 5

Week 4 Moulding the body: Working out

Reading due: Spielvogel, Laura (2003) Working Out in Japan: Shaping the Female Body in Tokyo Fitness Clubs. Chapter 5.

Week 5 Food faddism, dieting and anorexia

Reading due: Nakamura, Hideyo (2013) Illness Experiences and Medical Discourses: A Case Study about Recovery from Eating Disorders in Japan in Communication (pp. 39-55)

Week 6 Physical disability

Reading due: Stevens, Carolyn. 2013. Disability in Japan. Routledge. Chapter 5

Week 7 Deafness in Japan

Reading due: Nakamura, Karen. 2003. ‘U-Turns, Deaf Shock, and the Hard of Hearing: Japanese Deaf Identities at the Borderlands’ In Monaghan, L, et al (eds.). Many Ways to be Deaf: International Variation in Deaf Communities. Gallaudet University Press. Chapter 11.

Week 8 Mental illness

Reading due: Nakamura, Karen (2013) A Disability of the Soul: An Ethnography of Schizophrenia and Mental Illness in Contemporary Japan. Chapter 6.

Week 9 Approaches to depression

Reading due: Kitanaka, Junko (2012). Depression in Japan. Chapter 9

Week 10 Student Presentation Preparation

This class outlines the goals and grading of student presentations as well as giving some class time for the preparation of materials.

Week 11 End of life

Reading due: Lock, Margaret 1999 ‘The Problem of Brain Death: Japanese Disputes about Bodies and Modernity’. In The Definition of Death: Contemporary Controversies. Stuart J. Youngner, Robert M. Arnold and Renie Schapiro, eds. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 239-256.

Week 12 Organ donation

Reading due: Lock, M and Crowley-Makota, M. 2008. ‘Situating the practice of organ donation in familial, cultural, and political context’ In Transplant Review 22. Pp. 154-157

Week 13 Student presentations

Presentations, including Q&A session for each group

No reading due.

Week 14 Student presentations

Presentations, including Q&A session for each group

No reading due.

Week 15 Student presentations

Presentations, including Q&A session for each group. No reading due. Essay due.


2012-05-14 12.43.07

Ema tablets, Meiji Jingu Shrine, Tokyo