Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists

The Gender Politics of Food Contamination after Fukushima

Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists

Book Pages: 224 Illustrations: 3 illustrations Published: August 2016

Asian Studies > East Asia, Cultural Studies > Food Studies, Science and Technology Studies > Feminist Science Studies

Following the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster in 2011 many concerned citizens—particularly mothers—were unconvinced by the Japanese government’s assurances that the country’s food supply was safe. They took matters into their own hands, collecting their own scientific data that revealed radiation-contaminated food. In Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists Aya Hirata Kimura shows how, instead of being praised for their concern about their communities’ health and safety, they faced stiff social sanctions, which dismissed their results by attributing them to the work of irrational and rumor-spreading women who lacked scientific knowledge. These citizen scientists were unsuccessful at gaining political traction, as they were constrained by neoliberal and traditional gender ideologies that dictated how private citizens—especially women—should act. By highlighting the challenges these citizen scientists faced, Kimura provides insights into the complicated relationship between science, foodways, gender, and politics in post-Fukushima Japan and beyond.


"Most directly, Radiation Brain Moms will appeal to those in science, technology, and society (STS) studies, women and gender studies, and Asian studies. Because academics in many countries live in neoliberal, scientific, postfeminist societies where the risks of nuclear disaster lurk, the book should interest all." — Sue V. Rosser, Gender & Society

"Aya Hirata Kimura offers a new and challenging perspective on Fukushima recovery, especially its meaning for citizen science. . . . Kimura's book is well worth examining in depth." — Richard Newman, Metascience

"[T]he important information isn’t radiation levels, but the work of women in resisting the dominant narrative. [Kimura] reminds us that 'subaltern people engage in actions that might not look like much but still chip away at the space occupied by authorities' and that this is a significant model for resisting the forces of neoliberal capitalism." — Amy Reddinger, Feminist Collections

“Addressing this post-3/11 environment through rich engagement with anthropological subjects, Kimura offers a rigorous theoretical analysis that extends far beyond the circumstances of Fukushima…. A significant contribution to the research areas of science and technology studies, post-feminism, neoliberalism, food studies, nuclear disaster and Japanese society.”

— Joel Neville Anderson, International Feminist Journal of Politics

“Kimura adds theoretical density to the neoliberal glossing of nuclear energy hazards.... Radiation Brain Moms is a compact monograph and could easily be incorporated into graduate or advanced undergraduate courses in gender, disaster, environment, food and agriculture, or science and technology studies.”

— Emily R. Haire, Rural Sociology

"Kimura works to make the ideologies of neoliberalism, scientism and post-feminism visible." — Chelsea Szendi Schieder, Japan Times

"Kimura gives a full account of the complexity of the issues she addresses by creating cross-disciplinary linkages that help readers to see the radioactive contamination of food in post-Fukushima Japan from new and multiple perspectives.  . . . This book stands out because it reminds us that scholarship is never objective, that social science scholars have to position themselves and that the thin line between scholarship and activism is often blurred. The greatest achievement of this book, however, is to give the marginalized women and citizen scientists a voice outside of Japan." — Cornelia Reiher, Pacific Affairs

“For those unfamiliar with Japan, Radiation Brain Moms gives an extensive historical memory of Japan and its complex relationship to nuclear power. Additionally, it provides the history of Chernobyl that is necessary to understanding contemporary responses to nuclear disaster.” — Amanda Green, Agriculture and Human Values

"Radiation Brain Mom and Citizen Scientists makes a valuable contribution to feminist studies, science and technology studies, and sociological explorations of contemporary Japan. Readers will appreciate Kimura's keen observations and theoretical competence, which together give voice to psychosocially disoriented citizens – women in particular – who are confronting uncertain risks in contemporary society." — Ryo Morimoto, Monumenta Nipponica

Radiation Brain Moms is an empirically grounded and theoretically sophisticated important piece of scholarship. This study will challenge and reward scholars; graduate students and general readers interested in contemporary Japanese society in the aftermath of the March 11 disasters; anthropologists, sociologists, and historians of disasters; people interested in social studies of science and technology; and those engaged in gender and feminist science studies.” — Tsipy Ivry, Journal of Japanese Studies

"Provides much-needed clarity about how and why women across Japan have engaged with citizen science . . . This historically sensitive sociological work addresses readers of all disciplinary backgrounds and clears much ground on Japanese women’s use of technology and scientism. . . . Necessarily dispassionate yet cognitively empathetic." — Lisa Onaga, Technology and Culture

"A compelling study of grassroots crowdsourcing of radiation data. . . . Kimura’s book will be of interest to those wishing to learn more about how social structures influence how scientific research is conducted and shared with affected publics." — Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher, Science Connected

"Riveting and smart, Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists tracks the efforts made by citizens in post-Fukushima Japan to ensure the safety of their food from radioactive contamination. In the face of state neglect and criticism from fellow Japanese, these initiatives display a 'soft' boldness (versus activist politics). Interweaving stories of citizen scientists and 'radiation brain moms' with sharp theoretics that deconstruct the entanglements of science, neoliberalism, and postfeminism at work, this book is at once powerful and timely." — Anne Allison, author of Precarious Japan

"Based on careful research, extensive fieldwork, and a judicious use of political and feminist theory, this book's relevance to political and social developments extends beyond Japan's borders. It is a reminder of the ongoing effects of the Fukushima disaster in Japan at a time when these effects are being increasingly ignored by the global media. A timely and important book, Radiation Brain Moms and Citizen Scientists will appeal to scholars of contemporary Japanese society as well as science and technology studies scholars, especially those interested in the gender dimensions of science and technology." — Tessa Morris-Suzuki, author of Borderline Japan: Foreigners and Frontier Controls in the Postwar Era


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Price: $25.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Aya Hirata Kimura is Associate Professor of Women's Studies at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa and the author of Hidden Hunger: Gender and Politics of Smarter Foods.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Abbreviations  ix

Preface   xi

Acknowledgments  xiii

Introduction  1

1. "Moms with Radiation Brain": Gendered Food Policing in the Name of Science  27

2. Engineering of Citizens  55

3. School Lunches: Science, Motherhood, and Joshi Power  78

4. Citizen Radiation-Measuring Organizations  104

5. The Temporality of Contaminants  132

Conclusion  155

Notes  159

References  173

Index  201
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-6199-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-6182-4
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