Karen Nakamura is Associate Professor of Anthropology and East Asian Studies at Yale University. She is the author of Deaf in Japan: Signing and the Politics of Identity (winner of the Association for Asian Studies's John Whitney Hall Book Prize) and A Disability of the Soul: An Ethnography of Schizophrenia and Mental Illness in Contemporary Japan, both from Cornell.
"Nakamura's methodology combines the field techniques of anthropology, archival research, and the political analysis of social movements to gather information on deaf movements in Japan in the postwar era, with the goal of understanding what it means to subscribe to 'deaf identity' in Japan. She frequently includes cross-cultural perspectives from international deaf movements and language systems to contextualize the Japanese case, as well as poses thoughtful and provocative questions about personal and communal identities by comparing the Japanese deaf community to other minority groups in Japan. Nakamura's monograph is extremely important because it explores disability in a wider context-as deafness cuts across all class, ethnic, and gender lines-and explores disability as a social construct for identity formation."-Carolyn S. Stevens, Journal of Japanese Studies "Deaf in Japan introduces readers to the largely unknown world of the marginalized minority of the hearing impaired in Japan. Offering a succinct historical overview and an exploration of the internal friction among the deaf and the inner workings of disability activism, Deaf in Japan draws attention to the great socio-historical changes that have taken place in this area in Japan since the early twentieth century. Of vital importance as a substantial contribution to the neglected field of disability studies and to the study of social movements in Japan, it is a work of indisputable originality, distinguished by the application of a successful fieldwork method and highly readable, accessible writing. Competent in both JSL (Japanese sign language) and ASL (American sign language), Nakamura embeds actual life stories within her study and in this way succeeds very well in conveying the realities of deaf identity in Japan beyond ideological theorizing. Relatively concise as it is, this thoughtful study also stimulates a greater awareness of issues of identity formation, ethnicity, and culture in general, and of the intercultural dynamics of discourses that go beyond national borders in the process of globalization. For this reason, Deaf in Japan is equally relevant to an understanding of the problematics of disability elsewhere, thus contributing to the integration of Asian Studies in general academic discourse."-John Whitney Hall Prize Citation from the Association for Asian Studies "Deaf in Japan begins to fill an enormous lacuna in the literature on contemporary Japanese society, namely how the society treats those with any form of physical or mental disability. Those interested in contemporary Japanese society and comparative welfare will learn much in this book about how Japanese social attitudes have changed over the past fifty years."-Roger Goodman, University of Oxford "In addition to expertly introducing to an English-speaking readership the world of the deaf and deaf movements in Japan, Karen Nakamura provides a very interesting and useful perspective on Japanese social movements and the 'new' forms they are taking in the 'post-postwar' milieu."-J. Victor Koschmann, Cornell University "Karen Nakamura combines history, life histories, ethnographic observation, and politico-linguistic analysis of sign language in Japan to open up sensible and much-needed debate on the multiplicity of the Japanese and their culture."-Sonia Ryang, The Johns Hopkins University