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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Thomas Hüllein

Japanese Studies, Philosophy
(PhD Students, July 1, 2011 - March 31, 2012)

Dissertation project

The Normative Effect of the Term “Health” in Japan from the Revision of the Eugenic Protection Law (1995) until after the Enacting of the National Health Promotion Law (2007)

“Health” is not merely a psychosomatic state; it is also a political, sometimes even ideological, category or norm. The statistical monitoring of the state of health in Japan is an important basis for social, political and economical action. The social welfare systems in Japan are, enforced by the steadily progressing demographic change, put under significant amounts of stress. At the same time, the future prosperity of Japan, the third-largest economy in the world, might be at stake due to the decreasing amount of children.

Against this background, the term “health” has undergone a significant process of re-definition in the normative, legal and administrative sense. This development reaches its climax with the enactment of the National Health Promotion Law: From 2007 on, all Japanese citizens are required to actively take care of their health. The consequences of this new law cannot yet be thoroughly assessed, however, it may be claimed that this social position of points results from a long-term process of redefining the very core of what “health” means and will have a significant influence not only on social, political and economical practices, but will also affect individual behavior and self-perception.

What has been said about health by medical practitioners, social- and humanities scientists, politicians, law experts and other people involved? Which individuals, institutions and interests drive the discourse on health? These questions are approached using text analytical methods, thereby taking a discourse analytical stance which is based on the general ideas as developed by Michel Foucault. The aim is to make visible the structures of knowledge-production and –administration.