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An ethnography of invisibility : Education & special needs children in Japan

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Item Summary

Title: An ethnography of invisibility : Education & special needs children in Japan
Authors: Maret, Jeffrey Daniel
Issue Date: 2008
Description: Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2008.
"Special needs" is a relatively new discourse that reveals tensions about performance, personhood and social rights. This dissertation explores the education, socialization and social discourse on youths with special needs in Japan. I use "special needs" as a metaphor to explore emotional maturity, the social construction of youth and the discourse on personhood in contemporary Japan.
I found that the special needs students came to embrace the fukushiki identity, which functioned outside of the traditional, age-grade based school relations. Educators looked for opportunities to encourage social bonding within the fukushiki class and to teach normalcy through use of kata [patterned action] and social performance. Caregivers had diverse opinions about the fukushiki system, which they viewed tactically in terms of opportunities for, and constraints on, inclusion within the larger society. The half-hidden, fukushiki classes lent support to the illusion of uniform ability within the student population and inadvertently contributed to the discourse on homogeneity within the wider society.
Keywords: Japan, special needs, disability, education, personhood, citizenship
My ethnographic research focuses on the little studied fukushiki system, which operates within mainstream public schools. For nearly two years I followed a small group of elementary school students, who were classified as having "emotional troubles" [jocho shogai ] or "cognitive impairments" [chiteki shogai]. This study draws upon my classroom observations, as well as extensive interviews with caregivers and educators. I also incorporate an analysis of a popular television drama about the trials of an autistic, first grade boy.
show 5 moreThe children at the center of this study had impairments that were not written on their bodies. Their "dis-abilities" only became visible through social interaction with peers, siblings, teachers and caregivers. While "special needs" can be defined in many ways, within compulsory education there is always an implicit contrast with normative expectations for the development of "healthy" competent student-citizens. Thus discourse about special needs youths is also a moral narrative about personhood and citizenship.
There is a common misconception that Japanese public, compulsory education consists of a single track, but actually there are two educational options for youths with special needs and/or disabilities: (1) segregated "protective schools" and (2) multi-grade classrooms [fukushiki gakkyu].
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 397-409).
Also available by subscription via World Wide Web
409 leaves, bound 29 cm

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URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/20403
ISBN: 9780549596943
Rights: All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections:Anthropology Ph.D Dissertations
Ph.D. - Anthropology



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