Paul A. ChristensenAug 19, 2015
Japan, Alcoholism, and Masculinity
Suffering Sobriety in Tokyo
Lexington Books 2014
Paul A. Christensen's new book is a thoughtful ethnography of drinking, drunkenness, and male sociability in modern urban Japan. Focusing on two major alcohol sobriety support groups in Japan, Alcoholics Anonymous and Danshukai, Japan, Alcoholism, and Masculinity: Suffering Sobriety in Tokyo (Lexington Books, 2014) explores the ways that admitting to and living with alcoholism in Japan challenges prevailing norms of masculinity and sociability, and looks carefully at its profound consequences for the individual sufferer. After a brief history of alcohol and drunkenness in Japan, Christensen considers the ubiquitous coding of alcohol as fun and leisurely in mass media, and directs our attention to the difficulties that this framing creates for male alcoholics. The book then moves to a discussion of historical shifts in notions of addiction in Japan, as well as contemporary debates over treatment methodologies and the ways that methodologies transplanted into Japan from the US map - or not - onto local cultural and religious realities. Christensen follows this with detailed accounts of the major support groups available to sufferers in Tokyo, the languages and bodies of alcoholic experience, and much else. Throughout the study, Christensen offers an extraordinarily sensitive treatment of the struggle of individual men to build a new selfhood while their sense of masculinity, and of a place in society, have been dismantled.