Radiating Risk: Food Safety and Public Health After the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis

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19:00 (Doors open at 18:30)
  • Nicolas Sternsdorff (Visiting researcher, Sophia University, Tokyo)
  • Satsuki Takahashi (Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, George Mason University.)
  • Ryugo Hayano (Professor and chair, Physics Department, University of Tokyo)
Mita Hall, Temple University, Japan Campus
Kyle Cleveland (ICAS Associate Director)
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Japan’s nuclear crisis has provoked profound unease about the danger of radiation dispersion, especially in the Tohoku region. As the initial dramatic phase of the nuclear crisis has passed into long-term concern about the effects of radiation on public health, citizen groups, NGOs and members of the scientific community have stepped up efforts to supplement the government’s assessments. Concerned citizens have increasingly taken matters into their own hands, since the initial handling of the crisis has generated distrust of the government’s ability to effectively manage the crisis and accurately address the dangers posed by radiation.
This panel brings together cultural anthropologists who are studying food safety in Japan, and one of Japan’s leading scientists, who has been notable for bringing attention to the government’s response to the nuclear crisis, and offering scientifically informed alternatives to established protocols. The panel will address how radiation assessment is conceived and implemented in Japan, and discuss the controversies surrounding the highly contentious issue of food safety, as citizen activists seek alternatives to the government’s procedures. Discussion will touch on issues related to Civil Society in Japan and the changing nature of political engagement in the aftermath of the 3.11 crisis.


Nicolas Sternsdorff

Visiting researcher, Sophia University, Tokyo

Nicolas Sternsdorff is a Ph.D. candidate in social anthropology at Harvard University and a visiting researcher at Sophia University in Tokyo. He is conducting field research on food safety after 3.11 in Japan. His focus is on how concerned citizens, consumer movements and producers define safety, and how this affects eating habits, production methods and the sourcing of food. Since the nuclear accident, people on all ends of food commodity chains have had to learn about radiation, and his work explores how they incorporate this knowledge into their decision-making and everyday life.

Satsuki Takahashi

Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, George Mason University.

Satsuki Takahashi received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Rutgers University in 2010. She served as a research fellow at the Institute of Social Science at the University of Tokyo (2008-2011) and a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University (2011-2012). Based on her dissertation and NSF RAPID-funded follow-up research, she is currently preparing a book manuscript on “unending modernization,” human-ocean relations, and discourses of survival in pre- and post-3/11 Japan. In fall 2013, she will be an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at George Mason University.

Ryugo Hayano

Professor and chair, Physics Department, University of Tokyo

Ryugo Hayano is a professor and chair of the Physics Department at the University of Tokyo. Hayano mainly works at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), where he has pioneered studies of antimatter, for which he received in 2008 the Nishina Memorial Prize, the most prestigious physics prize in Japan. Since the Fukushima Daiichi accident, Hayano has been constantly tweeting radiation-related information to his 150k followers, bringing scientific scrutiny to the government’s radiation dispersion assessments. He has been working with Tohoku region prefectural government officials to test the cesium level of school lunches, and is helping medical doctors in Fukushima with whole-body counter measurements.