The Japanese Self Defense Forces

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The main focus of my work on the Japanese self-defense forces has been on trying to understand how this country maintains a force that is basically military but in a context in which there are strict constitutional limits on maintaining such a force and still strong anti-militaristic movements in wider society. In this project I have sought to explore the ways in which the Japanese forces manage their problematic existence and seek legitimacy and wider acceptance in society.

Using the concept of normalization, I linked my analysis to five types of processes. The first involves processes of legalizing and formalizing the actions of the armed forces, that is, processes closely related to decision-making and which usually form the analytical focus of political scientists. The second entails stressing the indispensability of the military as holder of a special expertise in war-making associated with the role of “guardians” of national security. In the third sense normalization involves a state of an absence of pathology or a process of returning from some state of abnormality. The fourth sense of normalization is related to what can be called the “ritual cycle” or “ritual density” the armed forces, to the way that particular ceremonies and rites are related to wider ritual structures. Here normalization is a process whereby behaviors and ideas are made to appear natural and taken-for-granted. The fifth, and final, aspect of normalization entails conforming to a socially constructed standard which in our case corresponds to what has become an internationally accepted model of the military (and in the Japanese case this entails other industrial democracies).

I end with the contention that because the Japanese military – like all militaries – holds an expertise in managing and handling the organized and legitimate use of state violence it will never become ‘normal’ just like any other organization in Japanese society. This project has prompted me to take on a much more macro-sociological approach that explores issues of political change, constitutional transformation and the interlinkages between the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and other armed forces such as the ones belonging to the United States. I have written a series of articles on this subject (alone or with a cultural historian) and have begun a volume length manuscript on the place of the Self-Defense Forces in contemporary Japan.

 

Publications

Eyal Ben-Ari Review Essay: Samurai, Violence and State-Making: The Development of the Military and Militarism in Japan. Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scientists 29(2): 61-72, 1997.

Sabine Fruhstuck and Eyal Ben-Ari “Now We Show It All!” Normalization and the Management of Violence in Japan’s Armed Forces. Journal of Japanese Studies 28(1): 1-39, 2002

Public Events and Japanese Self-Defense Forces: Aesthetics, Ritual Density and the Normalization of Military Violence. In Maria Six-Hohenbalken and Nerina Weiss (eds) Violence Expressed: An Anthropological Approach. Farnham: Ashgate. Pp. 55-70. 2012.

Israeli Soldiers, Japanese Children: Fieldwork and the Dynamics of Participant-Observation and Reflection. In Haim Hazan and Esther Hertzog (eds) Serendipity in Anthropological Research: the Nomadic Turn. Furnham, Surrey: Ashgate. 65-80. 2013.

Introductory Essay – War, Social Memory and Narrative. In Mayumi Sekizawa (ed): War, Memory and Narrative: Japan in Comparative Perspective. Kyoto: Showado.  Pp 1-23. (in Japanese). 2013.

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Eyal Ben-Ari and Sabine Fruhstuck The Celebration of Violence: A Live-Fire Demonstration Carried Out by Japan’s Contemporary Military. American Ethnologist 30(4): 539-55, 2003.

Eyal Ben-Ari The Japanese Self-Defense Forces: Normalization, Society and Politics. Kokusai Anzen Hosho 35(3): 73-94, 2008.

Eyal Ben-Ari Death and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces: Anticipation, Deployment and Cultural Scripts. In Guy Podoler (ed): War and Militarism in Modern Japan: Issues in History and Identity. London: Global Oriental. 172-86, 2009.

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Eyal Ben-Ari Public Events and Japanese Self-Defense Forces: Aesthetics, Ritual Density and the Normalization of Military Violence. In Maria Six-Hohenbalken and Nerina Weiss (eds) Violence Expressed: An Anthropological Approach. Farnham: Ashgate. Pp. 55-70, 2011.

PowerPoint


Uploaded on authorSTREAM by eyalba