Lonely Death: An Ecology of Living and Dying in Post-Miracle Japan

Stories of “lonely death” (kodokushi) are commonplace in what is considered an era of increasing isolation and social disconnectedness in post-Bubble Japan. Referencing the deaths of people who die alone in places where they had lived (isolated) for years, “lonely death” often involves the discovery of bodies weeks (sometimes months) after the fact. As the rates of both lifelong employment and marriage decline, fewer and fewer Japanese find themselves with the safety net that the state assigned the workplace and family as its de facto welfare/care provider in postwar times. “Lonely death” has become shorthand for this wider sociological condition of changing living patterns. It is this social condition—a state where the social itself is said to be one of disconnectedness and de-relationality in 21st century Japan—that will be explored in this project.

Project leader(s):
  • Fellow: Anne Allison (Duke)

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