This is an ethnography of a Buddhist, Catholic, and secular collaboration tending to the souls of marginalized men in San’ya, Tokyo’s former day labor ghetto. How does this post-secular project focused on death and the afterlife reshape relationships that bond the living and the dead? How does it relate to neoliberal biopolitics of urban poverty management? This paper demonstrates how the project subverts traditional Japanese patrilineal necrosociality in ways that enhance ontological security and social ties among participants. Additionally, project developers’ post-secular notion of rapprochement through acknowledging and accepting differences between communities bridged long-time rifts among faith, social service, and activist groups. While in some ways the project enables neoliberal privatization of social services, it is also a potent form of resistant necropolitics from below that reconfigures social relations around death to connect diverse groups, highlighting and addressing the limitations of a familial model of welfare amid neoliberal capitalism.
Marr, M. D. (2019). The Ohaka (Grave) Project: Post-secular social service delivery and resistant necropolitics in San’ya, Tokyo. Ethnography. https://doi.org/10.1177/1466138119845393