Happiness and the good life in Japan – University of Copenhagen

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Keynote address
14th Annual NAJS Conference
University of Copenhagen 24-25 May

Professor Dr Wolfram Manzenreiter, Dept. of East Asian Studies, University of Vienna, will share findings from his current research, shedding light on the merits of ethnographic research to understanding the diversity of happiness in contemporary Japan.

Happiness and the good life in Japan

The study of happiness and the good life is a topical project at a time when global warming, reduction in biodiversity, mass migration, chauvinism, and the deepening of social inequality worldwide highlight the critical conjuncture of the current world system. Japan seems to provide a particular case in point. Its notoriously low rankings in international happiness comparisons apparently suggest the decoupling of national wealth from its people’s sense of wellbeing and discredit the merits of capitalist production even within one of the world’s richest country. Referring to quantitative survey data, I will explore some of the prominent features that have a diminishing effect on overall happiness in Japan. However, as I will demonstrate in the second half of this presentation, there is ample reason to take the holistic approach of quantitative cross-cultural comparisons with a grain of salt. World rankings homogenize a nation to a degree that the diversity to be found in any country is easily glossed over. The case studies of qualitative research I am referring to are much more prone to pay attention to the variety of happiness within and between social subgroups. Ultimately my talk will address the questions of what is the Japanese sense of living a good life, and what has happiness to do  with it.

All are welcome!

The lecture is part of the 14th Annual NAJS Conference (Nordic Association for the Study of Contemporary Japanese Society). You can read more about the conference here.