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Post-3/11 Japan and the Radical Recontextualization of Value: Music, Social Media, and End-Around Strategies for Cultural Action

Ian Condry
Ian Condry

“Music provides a model for cultural movements that do not attack power directly, but rather operate through a slippery, insidious, “end-around” strategy.”

The disasters of 3/11 provoked a global outpouring of emotion towards the suffering in Japan. In many ways, this singular event seemed to refigure the meanings of community and technology by drawing attention to the fragility of human control in times of disaster. Although the long-term consequences remain uncertain, this radical recontextualization of value points to a way of thinking about broader processes of change, a contrast to cultural analysis that proceeds by directly critiquing structures of power on their own terms. If we look to processes whereby a new context can be the impetus that undermines seemingly entrenched interests, we might find inspiration for alternative forms of critique and action. Music provides a model for cultural movements that do not attack power directly, but rather operate through this kind of slippery, insidious, “end-around” strategy of change that gains its force from recontextualizing social logics. These features of music foreshadow some of the contemporary developments in social media, and may point to untapped potentials for subverting, and possibly transforming, enduring structures of power and inequality.

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Ian Condry
Written by
Ian Condry

Ian Condry s a cultural anthropologist of Japan and professor at MIT since 2002. He is the author of two books, Hip-Hop Japan and The Soul of Anime, both of which explore globalization from below. The books are available for free, thanks to Creative Commons and Duke University Press: mit.academia.edu/IanCondry.

In the fall of 2019, he launched the MIT Spatial Sound Lab, a community production studio for immersive, multiperspective, sonic experimentation. Among the goals is to provide a space for using sound to disrupt hierarchies, reduce inequalities, and cross borders. He is co-organizer of Dissolve Music, a sound conference and music festival, in 2018 and 2020 (mitdissolve.com).

Since 2018, he is the radio DJ for Near and Far, a Japanese hip-hop show, on WMBR 88.1FM Cambridge, and online at wmbr.org, weekly Tuesdays 7-8pm. Archive at mixcloud.com/iancondry.

Since 2006, he has organized the MIT / Harvard Cool Japan research project, which explores the critical potential of popular culture.

He is currently working on a book about musicians on the margins in Tokyo, Boston, and Berlin.

Ian Condry Written by Ian Condry