Ian Condry @ MIT
Ph.D. Yale (1999) Anthropology; B.A. Harvard (1987) Government
I am a cultural anthropologist who specializes on media, popular culture, and globalization with a focus contemporary Japan and the US. My current research interests include social media, video games, and mobile phone apps, which relate to my earlier research on Japanese hip-hop and anime by attending to processes of cultural innovation that go global.
My first book Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization was published in October 2006 from Duke University Press. The Japanese translation Nihon no Hip-Hop was published in 2009 by NTT Publications. It is an ethnography of the Japanese rap music scene, exploring issues of race, gender, language, popular music history, and cultural politics primarily through the perspectives of Japanese musicians. Through fieldwork starting 1995-97, I focused on the "genba" (nightclubs, or "actual site") of Japan's hip-hop scene. I argue that the paths of cultural globalization lead through specific sites of performance, such as nightclubs and recording studios. Such locations help us more deeply understand the dialogue between global/local, producer/consumer, artist/industry.
The Soul of Anime: Collaborative Creativity and Japan’s Media Success Story is the title of my second book project to be published by Duke University Press (estimated fall 2012). Japanese animated films and TV shows (anime) account for roughly 60% of all animated TV shows broadcast worldwide. Why did Japan become the global leader in children’s cartoon programming? I conducted fieldwork in Tokyo’s animation studies, observing script meetings, voice recording, editing, and the day-to-day work of animators, toy designers, publishers, fans and activists. Anime is a revealing example of contemporary media because its success hinges on cross-media flows. Many anime characters were developed in manga, young adult fiction, video games, and elsewhere, and the emotional attachment to these characters operates across media forms. In this regard, anime is a revealing case study for understanding today’s media worlds where “that which is most meaningful” -- the soul -- is something that arises from our collective enthusiasm -- our collaborative creativity -- and cannot be understood simply as the outcome of a single media creation. What drives this collaborative creativity of anime? How does the “dark energy” of fandom through online sharing (or piracy) of anime affect its transnational flows? How are love and sexuality portrayed in the current "moe" (pronounced “moh-ay”) boom? Why are there so many giant robots? Anime offers a case study in global media and the transnational dynamics of Japanese culture.
During the 2010-11 academic year, I will be starting a new research project on “The Uses of Social Media: An Ethnographic Comparison of Japan and the US.” I will be conducting fieldwork in Tokyo during the fall 2010, and comparative research in Boston in the spring 2011. Please check my blog from September 2010 on to hear about new discovery’s from Japan’s cutting-edge media worlds.
Since January 2006, I have been organizing the research project Cool Japan: Media, Culture, Technology at MIT and Harvard. The project involves colloquia and international conferences to examine the cultural connections, dangerous distortions, and critical potential of popular culture. Sponsored by MIT Japan Program, Harvard's Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, the Harvard Asia Center, MIT Foreign Languages and Literatures, and MIT Comparative Media Studies.
A word from my research sponsors: I gratefully acknowledge support from the the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the National Science Foundation, Fulbright, the Japan Foundation, the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies (Harvard), and Harvard's Program on US-Japan Relations, along with the generous support of MIT.