Pop-Culture Japan and the Politics of Anxiety
How do the worlds that state administrators manage become the feelings publics embody? In Administering Affect, Daniel White addresses this question by documenting the rise of a new national figure he calls "Pop-Culture Japan." Emerging in the wake of Japan's dramatic economic decline in the early 1990s, Pop-Culture Japan reflected the hopes of Japanese state bureaucrats and political elites seeking to recover their country's standing on the global stage. White argues that due to growing regional competitiveness and geopolitical tension in East Asia in recent decades, Japan's state bureaucrats increasingly targeted political anxiety as a national problem and built a new national image based on pop-culture branding as a remedy.
Based on sixteen months of ethnographic fieldwork among rarely accessible government bureaucrats, Administering Affect examines the fascinating connection between state administration and public sentiment. White analyzes various creative policy figures of Pop-Culture Japan, such as anime diplomats, "Cool Japan" branding campaigns, and the so-called "Ambassadors of Cute," in order to illustrate a powerful link between practices of managing national culture and the circulation of anxiety among Japanese publics. Invoking the term "administering affect" to illustrate how anxiety becomes a bureaucratic target, technique, and unintended consequence of promoting Japan's national popular culture, the book presents an ethnographic portrait of the at-times surprisingly emotional lives of Japan's state bureaucrats. In examining how anxious feelings come to drive policymaking, White delivers an intimate anthropological analysis of the affective forces interconnecting state governance, popular culture, and national identity.