Organized Panel Session
This panel aims to enhance the discussion of the “local” as a unit of analysis. Social scientists are frequently concerned with the “local”. Yet, the boundaries of localities are hard to discern and by no means stable, and local constellations of administrative, political, economic, and social phenomenon are seldom isometric. Refining our conception of what constitutes a subnational “locality” – its spatial, social, formal and informal boundaries – uncovers the impact of socio-economic and political constellations that otherwise remain invisible.
Japan is a particularly intriguing case in this respect. After the wave of municipal mergers in the mid-2000s, the “local” in Japan hides within and cuts across newly amalgamated municipalities, electoral districts, geographical formations, or economic “clusters”. As the administrative and social boundaries of communities have become blurred, the renegotiation of the “local” gained relevance against the background of large state projects such as “regional revitalization”. Located at the intersection between political science, sociology, human geography, and ethnography, the panel analyzes different aspects of the (re)configuration and interaction of formal and informal, spatial and social sub-national boundaries in Japan. The papers cover a range of topics, including the spatial and non-spatial boundaries of local economic clusters (Rabe), the effects of local fishery cooperative mergers against the background of fishing rights (re)allocation (Ganseforth), the Japanese “hometown tax" (furusato nozei) in the context of municipal mergers (Rausch), and the initiatives to promote the Kofu Basin in Yamanashi Prefecture as a wine tourism site against the background of underlying organizational and socio-economic divisions (Jentzsch).