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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies

Hierarchy in Japanese Society: Discursive Construction and Language Socialisation in Secondary School Club Activities


Zi Wang (Marie Curie Fellow, National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilisations (Inalco); Paris)

Date and Time

October 28, 2021, 2 - 3:45 pm


Seniority-based hierarchy (jouge kankei) is omnipresent in Japanese group dynamics. How one comports depends on one's status and position vis-à-vis others. Yet, despite its prevalence, extant literature on contemporary Japanese society offers little explanations as to how and where individuals growing up in Japan acquire such social knowledge on a collective scale, nor the nature and characteristics of this hierarchy. In this talk, I present main findings from one of my recent books which is an ethnographic account on the social construction of hierarchy. Set in the critical adolescent years of growing up, it examines how jouge kankei as an enduring feature of Japanese social life is created and reproduced among secondary school students. It shows the ways in which students in school club activities use language and a range of discursive practices to enact, legitimise, and transmit jouge kankei. although rigid and conservative in appearance, findings suggest that jouge kankei may also have an egalitarian role to play in Japanese society. I will also share my experience of doing fieldwork in secondary schools in Japan.


University of Zurich, Room KOL G 217, Rämistrasse 71, 8001 Zürich

(Please take note of the Covid Certificate Requirement)


Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies - Japanese Studies