Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Guest Blog: The Sociality of Suicide: Shared Life and Shared Death in a “Virtual” World

You may have noticed the Anthsisters have been very quiet lately.. spending all our time writing and finishing our Master's thesis' hasn't left much time for blogging! However, we have not forgotten about our readers so we asked our friend Tom, an honours student in Cultural Anthropology to guest blog for us.

Every year at Victoria University, the Cultural Anthropology Department runs an essay writing competition for third-year students who are majoring in Cultural Anthropology - the best essays from third-year students are judged by the Cultural Anthropology lecturers. Tom won the 2014 essay competition with his essay that explores the role of online forums and suicide in Japan, so we asked him to turn his winning essay into a blog post for us. Enjoy the read and post your thoughts and comments below!

~ Tayla and Hollie

Tom Loffhagen is currently an Honours student in Cultural Anthropology at Victoria University of Wellington. With a background in the study of both Anthropology and Japan, his focus is cultural narratives of depression and suicide in Japan, politics and power in diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and ethnopsychiatry. His other interests include good food to cook and a good book to read. 

As a student of both Anthropology and Japanese I have acquired an acute interest in what many have called an over-aestheticisation of suicide in Japanese culture - from heroic tales of seppuku by Edo Period Samurai to the poetic death of acclaimed author Yukio Mishima – the events of his life and his dramatic death by his own sword could well be mistaken for the plot of one of his own novels. Since the late 1990’s Japan has seen a remarkable increase in its rate of suicide, with it currently being the leading cause of death among people under the age of 30. Many have cited this so-called “positive cultural valence” given to suicide as cause of Japan’s high suicide rate, an argument that reduces transmission of cultural knowledge to causation. Naturally, this argument has shifted to fit the 21st Century.