The Prize Committee commends the book as “remarkable” in that it “significantly expands the analytical approach to studying Asian return migration beyond the more common ethnoracial categories of identity and belonging.” While it is “accessibly and elegantly written,” “it does not shy away from complexity.” The Committee then concludes: “The multiple intellectual frameworks required to make sense of the ethnographic situation, and the author’s ability to pursue and explain it with great detail, intimacy, analytical precision, and coherence, are a testament to its anthropological contribution beyond Asian Studies.”
About Suma Ikeuchi—Scholar, Writer, Anthropologist
Simply put, my work explores “a difference that makes a difference” in our sociopolitical surroundings. While Gregory Bateson—an anthropologist whom I respect—coined this phrase as the definition of information, what I mean by it is the construction of cultural boundaries that is politically consequential to our increasingly interconnected world today.
Thus my ethnographic projects investigate the making and crossing of boundaries between all kinds of “us” and “them”: “natives” and “foreigners,” “pure-blooded” and “mixed-race,” “believers” and “seculars,” “humans” and “divinities,” and “persons” and “robots.” I investigate the politics of identification at the intersection of migration, citizenship, and religion in Global Asia—specifically, by studying the diverse racial, ethnic, and religious groups in transnational Japan.
In addition to disciplinary boundaries, I have also crossed a few national and linguistic boundaries. After receiving a B.A. from Hokkaido University in Japan, I left my natal country to enroll in the master’s program at Brandeis University in Boston. After my MA, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. and become a researcher. While at Emory, I picked up Brazilian Portuguese and conducted fieldwork among the Japanese-Brazilian migrant communities (including many Christian churches) in Japan. A book based on this project, Jesus Loves Japan: Return Migration and Global Pentecostalism in a Brazilian Diaspora, has been published by Stanford University Press. I also started learning Tagalog to study the growing Filipino communities in Japan, with a focus on the intimate care they provide to the rapidly aging nation’s elderly population. The other focus of this second project is care robots, which the government often claims to be the solution to the growing burden of eldercare in the country.
I also cross the boundary between textual and visual methods by producing ethnographic films in addition to scholarly articles and books. My ethnographic film was selected for screening at a visual anthropology film festival in 2016. I hope to grow as a holistic scholar who explores the politics of boundary-making in ways that engage multiple disciplinary and methodological fields: anthropology, religious studies, migration studies, ethnic studies, technology studies, Asian studies, and visual studies.
And Yes, I’ve Got Some Life…
Aside from research and teaching, I also enjoy pottery and hiking. In fact, these “hobbies” are vital to my scholarly endeavors. In the words of my wise grandma, “Use your hands and move your body if you don’t wanna be big-headed.”