Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationYale U.
Grant numberGr. 10358
Approve DateApril 13, 2022
Project TitleYamada, Shoko (Yale U.) "Promises of Repair: Environmental Remediation and Land Transformations in Post-industrial Japan"
As toxic exposure incidents proliferate worldwide, environmental remediation has become a crucial site for seeking restorative justice. Set in the aftermath of farmland remediation in Toyama, Japan, following mass cadmium poisoning called itai-itai disease, this ethnographic project explores the remaking of a toxic landscape decades after a promise of its repair. Despite the Japanese state’s 400-million-dollar soil cleanup between 1979-2012 to rebuild industrial agriculture, the region’s concurrent entry into a post-industrial economy has unsettled this initial arrangement through suburban development and a growing exit from agriculture. To track this contested transformation of the regional economy, I adopt “promises” as an ethnographic lens into a both material and social process of repair after an environmental injury. As the original promise of agricultural recovery collides with new economic aspirations, the question of Toyama’s repair begins to exceed physical remediation and grapple with a newly incurred responsibility for the remediated land. I will conduct 17 months of fieldwork to understand the articulations of victimhood, governmental regimes, and senses of moral obligation that emerge after remediation. By tracing how present economic pursuits make, enact, or break alternative promises over the newly troubled land, I examine navigations of the post-industrial transformations of a repaired landscape.