Dr Chika Watanabe (University of Manchester) 'An Anthropology of Fun under Uncertain Futures: Preparing for Disasters in Japan and Chile'.
How can we theorise fun anthropologically, especially when it appears under the clouds of an uncertain future? In the face of biblical floods and apocalyptic earthquakes that shatter lives around the world, ‘fun’ seems out of place, almost inappropriate. Yet, play and fun are what the disaster preparedness educators that I have been working with in Japan and Chile emphasize. These city officials, non-profit organisation staff, and neighbourhood leaders organise events centred around games and participatory activities for children and their families to teach them various skills to reduce disaster risks at home and help each other to survive the first few days of a disaster. It would be easy to conclude that play and fun in these spaces are instrumentalized in a gamification and thus depoliticization of preparedness. Instead of analysing away the labour of these preparedness educators, in this paper I explore what their emphasis on fun teaches us about how to face uncertain futures. There is an offering here for anthropologists as well, who tend to focus on what is ethical, just, political, and good (or their opposites), rather than experiences that are simply fun. How might an ethnographic attention to fun and its associated mechanisms such as play, pleasure, and joy carve out new conversations in anthropology and beyond?
Chika Watanabe is Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester. She is the author of Becoming One: Religion, Development, and Environmentalism in a Japanese NGO in Myanmar, and other publications on development and humanitarianism, religion and secularity, and disaster preparedness. She is also co-lead for the project “patchwork ethnography.
Image credit Dr Chika Watanabe