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Endless Question

Youth Becomings and the Anti-Crisis of Kids in Global Japan

dwayne dixon, Author

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Diagnosing Place: Walking Through the Skin of Another Life

Tonight I want to say something wonderful
for the sleepwalkers who have so much faith
in their legs, so much faith in the invisible
from“For the Sleepwalkers”

Edward Hirsch

Hirsch continues a few lines later: “I love the way that sleepwalkers are willing, to step out of their bodies into the night, to raise their arms and welcome the darkness, Palming the blank spaces, touching everything.”

He describes contact twice over, an image of extended hands, reaching out in, into the dark.  The willingness to reach is an unconscious state where the haptic rises to find a profound frontier in communion-contact with the irrational. This nonsensical unknowingness is transformed into bodily understanding where the out there is known by someone else and at the same time is always only a membrane—a skin over chaos.

We have to learn the desperate faith of sleep-
walkers who rise out of their calm beds

and walk through the skin of another life.
We have to drink the stupefying cup of darkness
and wake up to ourselves, nourished and surprised.

Anthropology often requires for the practitioner and student the “desperate faith” of those who “rise out of their calm beds” of what is supposed, formulated from thorough study of the extant literature, carefully theorized and go into the field where the stupefying cup of darkness awaits. The “field”—the dense, lively, and densely lived environments of anthropology—is just a crazy thicket of overgrown stretches that seem to both begin at and recede into the carefully tended plots of area studies, capitalism(s) and its (in)congruent and noisy neighbor, globalization, visual culture, and maybe most eerily, the wild edges of orderly scholarly villages where childhood and youthfulness flourish.  The “field” is ostensibly Japan, in its broad historical and cultural topographies, but it is also Japanese youth, or to cut this closer, Japan and youth appended (apprehended) by urban spaces, body practices, labor, education, and visual technologies amidst global flow.  “Japan” as an object is a complex figure mapped by those who have traversed its cultural specificities and global fault lines and transected the historical and theoretical strata for a refinement of “Japan” as knowledge resource.  This ethnography is another encounter, following the maps of those who precede me, but an encounter disconcerted in finding the maps coming loose at the edges of the world, unable to beam out trajectories into conceptual space or auger the depths of spatialized bodies.  This ethnography is an attempt to finger loose from the small crevices of memory, from the fine fissures of experience, an account, a sounding, an opening up into open temporalities. It is trying to learn the gait of the sleepwalker and the possessed and thus to “walk through the skin of another life.” This requires one to still be intact within one’s own skin and aware of its solidity and porosity and its ever-present capacity to let you down and go down hard. This sense is invaluable and as I encounter the skins of other lives throughout this ethnography, I will constantly be noticing the parameters of my own—male, white, clutching a U.S. passport against my better judgment.

This is how I come to be an agent in my own object of study, a figure in motion within the very cultural drift of a globalized world and a vector of the very youth practices and media technologies I study.
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