Manga instead of scientific paper: How art enriches anthropology
“Anthropologist creates oceanic manga fantasy” is the headline of a story in The Daily Yomiuri Shimbun (Japanese newspaper). “I want to portray in manga what I gained from field investigation, but cannot fully express in scientific papers,” anthropologist Daisaku Tsuru says.
Tsuru is assistant cultural anthropology professor at Toyama University and the author of Nacun, a manga focusing on the mystery of (sea) life:
Nacun is based on Tsuru’s own experience of having researched fishing culture on an isolated island in Okinawa Prefecture for a total of six months while at graduate school.
Nacun, set in the future, revolves around graduate student Terunari Ishii. In the manga’s world, humans have expanded their range of marine activities thanks to the development of a convenient underwater breathing device in 2051. Ishii, who has received a prophecy in the form of a video left by an academic genius, begins living on an isolated island in the prefecture to find clues for the development of artificial intelligence.
The depiction of Ishii, who blends into local life through encounters with a lonely, middle-aged fisherman or a mysterious, beautiful girl who plays with dolphins, reflects parts of Tsuru’s fieldwork. At the same time, it can be read as a coming-of-age tale of an impressionable young man.
“Such a depiction of Ishii, that he idly spends his time drinking with fishermen, at least on days when he cannot go out fishing, is surely based on my own experience,” Tsuru said with a smile.
But the most fascinating aspect of Nacun is likely its clever combination of oceanic science fiction and romanticism with the inner psychological world of traditional Okinawans, typified by the worship of utaki, or sacred grounds.
>> read the whole story in the Daily Yomiuri (link updated)
A few days ago I mentioned an interview I’ve conducted with Lavleen Kaur, a criminologist who studies the relationship between Norwegian-Pakistanis and Norwegian-Indians. For her, theater and research go hand-in-hand. She has studied classic Indian dance in Lonon and also has experience as a choreographer and instructor.
- Yes, the artistic and academic aspects are for me something that go hand-in-hand and they are something I actively link together. For example, I came in contact with many of my informants for my Master’s degree by staging a play in cooperation with the Indian Welfare Society of Norway. (…) The piece was based on a book that was written in the 1600s, Heer by Waris Shah. The story of “Heer and Ranjha", the Romeo and Juliette from Punjab, is something both Indians and Pakistanis have a very special relationship to.
- We set up the play in a traditional original version, and more recent version that focused on a mixed couple. This generated quite a response! There were people who started leaving and paternal heads of family who did not want to attend the second version, which they considered to be a “youthful notion". The play helped start a debate within the community about topics that today we are compelled to relate to. There was a lot of participant-observation - it was “going native” in a very real sense.
UPDATE: Entertaining Research writes about an archaelogist who has danced his thesis