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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Dorothea Mladenova

Japanese Studies
(PhD Students, April 1, 2016 - August 31, 2016)

Research interests

Death & Dying, security, governmentality


Project: “On the optimized passing of the entrepreneurial self – shūkatsu ( ) in Japan”

 “An era has dawned, in which it has become necessary to think about one’s own death.” (自分の死については、自分で考えなければいけない時代がやってきました,

Entrepreneurial activity is no longer taking place only on the corporate level. Instead, it is increasingly employed on the individual level. Within neoliberal societies the individual is offered more and more options for self-realization in work, leisure and family. Simultaneously, one is required to understand oneself as a resource that has to be managed and optimized. In case of failure to achieve self-realization, this is generally seen as an individual failure, while the structural level is not addressed. Prominent subject formations in the German academic debate that refer to this process are the ‘entreployee’ (Arbeitskraftunternehmer, Voß/ Pongratz), the ‘entrepreneurial self’ (Bröckling) or the ‘age entreployee’ (Dyk / Lessenich).

Against this background, shūkatsu (終活), the pro-active preparation of one’s own death, appears as an extension of the hitherto known sphere of things that can be optimized during one’s life course. The underlying assumption is that even in the realm of death and dying there are sub-optimal outcomes, that the individual can (or even has to) prevent by taking the appropriate steps. Coined in 2009, the term originally referred to the organization of one’s own grave plot and the funeral ceremony, but it has come to include insurance and inheritance issues as well as more general questions as the clearing of the house and elderly care.

This project examines the social context in which the shūkatsu-activities could develop and engages, among other things, with demographics, the changing nature of family structures, the silver market and the general way in which the Japanese society deals with death. The theoretical bases are critical gerontology and governmentality studies.