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A State of Crisis: Macrobiotic Theory and the Production of Fukushima


In the face of the disaster and devastation wrought by both the tsunami and nuclear reactor meltdown of March 11, 2011, everything from organizing to theorizing appears unable to go on as usual, encapsulated by the recurrence of the descriptor ‘shinsai-go.’ But for those living according to the macrobiotic health lifestyle philosophy, the crisis is fomented by this concept. Drawing upon my ethnographic fieldwork with macrobiotic practitioners, I present that a macrobiotic narration of March 11, 2011, contrasts with a dominant one. Macrobiotic adherents cast the normality with which Fukushima would break as conditioning Fukushima-as-crisis – and the unwellness that results as endemic. The normality that is presumed by an idea of Fukushima as sudden crisis thus obfuscates, from a macrobiotic viewpoint, a larger, longer crisis.

In this thesis, I demonstrate that wellness determines the timing and spacing of crisis in both dominant and macrobiotic narrations – but that the timing and spacing of a crisis changes with different definitions of wellness. Specifically, those living macrobiotically practice a pointed critique of dominant society’s wellness as about the capacity to be productive. I argue herein that the timing and spacing for a macrobiotically imagined crisis is the nation-state, precisely because the means by which the nation-state is continually produced through bodies are figured as causal of unwellness. I contend that a macrobiotic narration of the state as produced through ideas and practices of productivity – ones which are making people unwell from a macrobiotic perspective – informs a set of practices that seek (macrobiotically imagined) wellness as a refusal to be productive under a dominant rubric.

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