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Madness and Moral Panic in Japan, Meiji to the Present Day – Christopher Harding

19 December 2016 — 6:45 pm

Monday 19 December 2016                                                     6.45pm

The Swedenborg Society
20-21 Bloomsbury Way (Hall entrance on Barter St)
London WC1A 2TH

For a PDF map of the venue please click here

Free – booking recommended
Book online here

Japan is one of a number of countries around the world where in recent years government, the media, medics, and pharmaceutical companies have worked to increase public awareness about mental illness. Efforts are made to reduce stigma and encourage openness, with an insistence that mental illness is just like physical illness: it can happen to anyone, and it can be treated. For depression, there was even a popular slogan in the early 2000s: ‘kokoro no kaze‘ – a ‘cold of the soul’.

But alongside these efforts runs a sense that rates of psychological distress are an indicator of wider, deeper problems in any given society: the robustness of the general population, the shifting demands of work and family life, the promise (or disappointment) of each new generation – even the ultimate fate of the country as a whole.

In this talk, we look at how in modern Japan, ‘madness’ and moral panic have often gone hand in hand. We look at worries in the 1870s connecting ‘neurasthenia’ with the alien pressures of Westernized forms of life, the ‘existential distress’ into which the country’s educated youth of the 1920s were prone to fall – and the ‘salaryman anxiety’ suffered by their fathers. We explore the boom for psychological theorizing after the war, pitting the ‘Japanese self’ against the American one, all the way up to hikikomori and depression in our present age. Should societies always try to avoid turning mental health into moral panic? Or in doing so, do they deprive themselves of a powerful tool of social and political criticism – ‘solving’ pressing problems by medicating the human fall-out?

Christopher Harding is a cultural historian of modern India and Japan. He is Lecturer in Asian History at the University of Edinburgh, where he specializes in religion, spirituality, and mental health. His most recent book is an edited collection: Religion and Psychotherapy in Modern Japan. He is currently working on a history of Japan’s twentieth century for Penguin. Dr Harding also writes and presents documentaries for BBC Radio 4. His series on culture and mental health, The Borders of Sanity, was broadcast earlier this year. The first episode looks at depression in Japan, and is available to listen again via BBC iPlayer here.

To reserve your place, please call the Japan Society office on 020 3075 1996 or email events@japansociety.org.uk or submit the online booking form.

 

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Date:
19 December 2016
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6:45 pm
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