Recovering from codependence in Japan

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In this article, I explore the appropriation of the notion of "codependence" in Japan, as alcoholism increasingly becomes a subject of social concern. Codependence is pathologized in the 1980's American popular psychology, which regards accommodation to social relationships as a compromise of the self. Yet, in Japan, the notion resonates with postwar national ideologies of the normal - that is, of Japanese society as held together through family-like intimacy and highly cultivated sensitivities to social demands. Japanese women who define themselves as codependent must forge a distinction (blurred by dominant cultural ideology) between socially valued interdependence and "unhealthy" or systematically exploitative forms of asymmetrical ties. Forging this distinction allows women to reject exploitative demands of society while continuing to function within familial and neighborhood communities. To the extent that women can forge distinctions between "dependence" and "codependence," they may be better able to resist state and social demands that come at their expense.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-118
Number of pages25
JournalAmerican Ethnologist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology


  • Addiction
  • Gender
  • Hegemonic cultural processes
  • Japan
  • National identity
  • Selfhood
  • Transnationalism


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