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Debt, Credit and the “End” of Finance in Post-Fukushima Japan

Prof. Miyazaki examines two contrasting market responses to the TEPCO crisis, orchestrated by Tokyo’s financial market professionals, as manifestations of their conscious efforts to re-deploy theories and techniques of finance in a newly found sphere of profound uncertainty.

Thursday, February 07, 2013
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Haines Hall, Room 352

 

The ongoing global financial crisis suggests that the era in which finance served as a site of vigorous intellectual and socio-economic experiment may have ended. Since the burst of the economic bubble in the early 1990s, financial market professionals in Japan have been a major force behind the promotion of a new culture of risk and responsibility. Following the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, however, Tokyo is losing its status as a global financial center, and its financial market professionals face new challenges ranging from frequent lay-offs and downsizing to a sheer lack of intellectual excitement.

In this context, Japan’s triple disasters on March 11, 2011 have presented new challenges. In particular, the accident at Fukushima Dai’ichi Nuclear Power Plant created a financial crisis of its own. Its operator, TEPCO, had been perceived as one of the most financially stable companies and was the biggest issuer of corporate bonds in Japan. After the disasters, major Japanese financial institutions were suddenly exposed to a wide range of risks associated with TEPCO’s large corporate debt as well as lawsuits and massive compensation claims against the utility company. These risks quickly became major sources of anxiety and profit opportunity for Tokyo’s financial market professionals. 

In this talk, Professor Miyazaki examines two contrasting market responses to the TEPCO crisis, orchestrated by Tokyo’s financial market professionals, as manifestations of their conscious efforts to re-deploy theories and techniques of finance in a newly found sphere of profound uncertainty. He offers these ethnographic examples as illustrations not only of problems associated with the specificity and peculiarity of Japan’s markets, but also of a more general question of how theoretical, technical and professional commitments are made anew in articulation with broader cultural and political sentiments.

Hirokazu Miyazaki is Director of the East Asia Program and Associate Professor of Anthropology at Cornell University. He has studied indigenous Fijian gift giving and Japanese derivatives trading. He is the author of The Method of Hope: Anthropology, Philosophy, and Fijian Knowledge (2004) and Arbitraging Japan: Dreams of Capitalism at the End of Finance (2013). 


StephanieKawahara
310-825-4500
japancenter@international.ucla.edu

Sponsor(s): Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies, Anthropology

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