Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Department of History, Anthropology & Philosophy, University of North Georgia
Being in Japan helped me to develop a strong network of both established and emerging scholars. I continue to collaborate with many of the scholars I met during my time on the fellowship. I count many of them as close friends and colleagues to this day.
For his fellowship, Professor O’Day was based at Sophia University in Tokyo for 14 months from 2007 to 2009.
During the 14 months of the fellowship, I conducted ethnographic research, mostly in Tokyo, into the politics of precarious youth labor. I did long-term participant observation field research on the lived experiences of “freeters,” a neologism for youth who drift from job to job, and the civil society activists trying to organize them. This field research allowed me to complete a Ph.D. dissertation that assesses how in a time of neoliberal fragmentation, where workplaces and labor unions have been de-stabilized in post-industrial societies worldwide, how alternative forms of politics and protest can be organized.
It would have been impossible to conduct my research project without going to Japan. Ethnography necessitates being in “the field.” The Japan Foundation fellowship was critical in allowing me to live in Japan for 14 months during my doctoral research program.
I remember most vividly from my time on the fellowship attending political protests, listening to speeches, and being able to follow-up with activists to conduct interviews. Experiencing the energy of demonstrations, listening to activists’ arguments, and being able to discuss their political positions personally would have been impossible without physically being there. Being on the ground and witnessing political movements unfold in real-time provided me with an invaluable perspective that I could not have acquired in any other way.
It is not an understatement to say that the Japan Foundation fellowship helped launch my career. I will be forever grateful to the Japan Foundation for the financial support to carry out my research project and for the doors that the fellowship opened. Being in Japan helped me to develop a strong network of both established and emerging scholars. I continue to collaborate with many of the scholars I met during my time on the fellowship. I count many of them as close friends and colleagues to this day.
Professor O’Day’s career has taken off since the days of his fellowship. Today, he is dedicated to fostering the minds of future scholars.
I am delighted to be able to draw on my experience to help train the next generation of East Asian Studies scholars. I am confident that some of our talented students will continue onto graduate school and win their own Japan Foundation Fellowships in the future.
Since the completion of my Ph.D. research, I have continued to focus on contemporary Japanese civil society, social movements, political protest, and activism. I won post-doctoral fellowships from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) that allowed me to undertake ethnographic projects on anti-nuclear activism after the Fukushima disaster, and student pro-democracy and peace protests. Since 2014 I have been an associate director of the “Voices from Japan” oral narrative digital archive research project at Sophia University in Tokyo. This research project involves training undergraduate students to collect oral narratives and incorporate them into a digital archive with a public component. The research project began in response to community needs after Japan’s earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident in 2011. It has since expanded to include research on political activism, homelessness, and how the refugee crisis is affecting Japan. In 2018 I was honored to return to Sophia University, then as a visiting professor, where I taught a course on Japanese civil society and social movements to over eighty undergraduate students.
In 2016 I was hired into a tenure-track position at the University of North Georgia to help develop the anthropology program and the university’s newly established East Asian Studies program. I am delighted to be able to draw on my experience to help train the next generation of East Asian Studies scholars. I am confident that some of our talented students will continue onto graduate school and win their own Japan Foundation Fellowships in the future.