Crafting Selves

Power, Gender, and Discourses of Identity in a Japanese Workplace

by Dorinne K. Kondo

1999 J. I. Staley Prize

Crafting Selves by Dorinne K. Kondo1990. University of Chicago Press1990. University of Chicago Press

Dorinne K. Kondo was named winner of the 1999 J. I. Staley Prize for her book, Crafting Selves: Power, Gender, and Discourses of Identity in a Japanese Workplace (University of Chicago Press, 1990). The announcement was made by Douglas W. Schwartz, president of the School for Advanced Research (SAR), who presented the $7,500 cash prize to Dr. Kondo during a special ceremony hosted by SAR during the American Anthropological Association meetings.

Crafting Selves is a vivid account of everyday life on the shop floor of a small family-owned confectionery factory in Tokyo. As Dr. Schwartz points out, "much of our perception of Japanese work life is drawn from discussions of male middle class managers in large corporations, which portray a society of harmony, homogeneity, and lifetime employment." Kondo's work, he notes, shatters this notion by focusing on a small factory, where she also worked.

In presenting this work to the SAR's Board of Managers for approval, Schwartz described the book as "a wonderfully readable account with exuberant detail, unraveling how people live and change in a fluid, complicate world." It is also, he notes, "an examination of how the Japanese self is created, which reflects on the larger question of human selfhood." In short, Crafting Selves is a "concise, readable, enjoyable, and insightful book, which is destined to become a classic."

Crafting Selves was nominated for the J. I. Staley Prize by Steven Feld, who describes this study as "the one ethnographic book that I've read in the last year that really shook me up and made me feel that new kinds of theory, ethnography and writing really have a kind of future I hadn't considered."

"At one level, this is the most intensely reflexive and self -revelatory thing I've read about personal identity and autonomy from the pen of an anthropologist. At another level, the book is a compelling ethnographic account of the nature of factory life, and how position, power, camaraderie, and loyalty are specifically located and maintained within its confines."

Crafting Selves is one of 50 books reviewed by a five-member panel comprised of William Beeman, Brown University; Michael Herzfeld, Harvard University; Irma McClaurin, University of Florida; Karen Rosenberg, University of Delaware; and Dean Snow, Pennsylvania State University. The panel convened twice--once in December 1998 at the AAA meetings and again in February 1999 at SAR. Selecting Crafting Selves as their top choice, the panel submitted its recommendation to SAR's Board of Managers, which granted the award.

Dorinne K. Kondo, Professor of Anthropology, University of Southern California

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