Society for East Asian Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In this paper I explore where and how not married individuals in Tokyo ‘do’ and (re)negotiate various personal relationships in the midst of “public anxieties” (Allison 2019: 15) about the emergence of a so-called “Hyper-Solo-Society” (Arakawa 2017). In the context of demographic change, this highly problematizing discourse often focuses on singles’ alleged ‘not-belonging’ and their supposed reluctance towards forming relationships. Drawing on ongoing fieldwork in Tokyo – (participant) observations and interviews – I will map individuals’ (shared) networks and examine exemplary (abstract/concrete/hybrid) spaces and places as well as their meaning for individuals’ relationship worlds. Following the spatial networks and the narratives of my interviewees, I will show that ‘new’ spaces are being actively created and ‘done’, especially by individuals living ‘new’ or rather unconventional relationships – often because they feel ‘out of place’ somewhere else. However, as spaces always “constitute the sphere of the possibility of the existence of multiplicity” (Hubbard 2018: 1297), these ‘new’ spaces comprise ambivalences and ambiguities; they are – often at the same time – spaces of solidarity and autonomy, of romance and loneliness, of togetherness and distinction, of self-optimization and individual failure, of desires and anxieties. Overall, these ‘spaces of (not) belonging’ can help to overcome “cruel optimism” (Berlant 2007) while they can also reinforce it.