Author: TheConversation

Nishimura Mako: A unique journey of identity for the only woman invited to join the notorious yakuza

By Martina Baradel, Marie Curie postdoctoral researcher, University of Oxford Nishimura Mako is a petite woman in her late fifties, with flowing hair and a delicate face. But you soon notice that she is no traditional Japanese lady, she is tattooed up to her neck and hands and her little finger is missing. These are signs of affiliation to the yakuza – Japan’s notorious criminal syndicates. The yakuza is dominated by men and leaves only informal roles to women. Typically a woman involved with the yakuza might be an anesan, a boss’ wife who takes care of young affiliates...

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Machizukuri: How decorating Japanese manhole covers created a marketplace for nostalgia

By Martyn Smith, Lecturer in Japanese Studies, University of Sheffield Visitors to Japan are usually primed to look up at the vast skyscrapers, the ornate temple gates, the traditional timber-framed guesthouses. Those who look down at their feet, though, might have noticed something equally intriguing on the ground. Ornate manhole covers in wrought iron, often plain, sometimes brightly painted, dot the country’s pavements, separating street life from the sewers that run below. These objects have garnered a considerable following of “manholers” (as the hobbyists are known), who will be delighted to learn that city officials in Kyoto and other...

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Great Replacement Theory: How a conspiracy evolved from a series of false ideas to spread hate

By Rodney Coates, Professor of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Miami University The “great replacement theory,” whose origins date back to the late 19th century, argues that Jews and some Western elites are conspiring to replace white Americans and Europeans with people of non-European descent, particularly Asians and Africans. The conspiracy evolved from a series of false ideas that, over time, stoked the fears of White people: In 1892, British-Australian author and politician Charles Pearson warned that White people would “wake to find ourselves elbowed and hustled, and perhaps even thrust aside by people whom we looked down.” The...

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The Chinese Century: How the United States has overestimated the rise of China and its power

By Dan Murphy, Executive Director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Harvard Kennedy School Which country is the greatest threat to the United States? The answer, according to a large proportion of Americans, is clear: China. Half of all Americans responding to a mid-2023 survey from the Pew Research Center cited China as the biggest risk to the U.S., with Russia trailing in second with 17%. Other surveys, such as from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, show similar findings. Senior figures in recent U.S. administrations appear to agree with this assessment. In 2020, John Ratcliffe, director...

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Punishing the poor: Study examines the relationships between jail conditions and jail deaths

By Jessica L. Adler, Associate Professor of History, Florida International University The family of Samuel Lawrence, one of 10 people to die in Georgia’s Fulton County Jail in 2023, is fighting for answers and accountability. “I got to think about him every day of my life and I don’t know when the pain stops,” Lawrence’s father, Frank Richardson, told a local TV station in October 2023. “I pray to God that he touches that jail and puts people in place to help the other ones that are left behind.” Shortly before his death, Lawrence, 34, had filed a complaint...

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Pundit proliferation: From public intellectuals to political operatives who profit from spewing opinions

By Mike McDevitt, Professor of journalism and media studies, University of Colorado Boulder Walter Lippmann, who lived from 1889 to 1974, was an early and prime example of the public intellectual as pundit commenting on news of the day. Lippmann, a Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote a syndicated column on national and international affairs. He advocated a philosophy in which honest reflection on common experiences would lift citizens out of their parochial worldviews. A pundit is someone who offers commentary in the media on a particular subject area. A gallery of legacy newspaper pundits would include a more raucous wing....

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