Aaron Hopes

Field of Interest
animals and ecology, nature, nationalisms and the Japanese right-wing, conservation, militarized modernity, animal extinction and emergence, wildlife tracking, culling and poaching, the exotic pet trade, Japan’s “natural monuments”, technology and infrastructure, the politics of dispossession and repossession, sovereignty & the state, civility, universals and vernaculars, imperialisms and annexation, post/present-cold war anthropology, post/present-colonialisms, public spheres, the press, elections, simulacra and refugia, aesthetics, mimetics, emergence, caves/forests/reefs, forest bathing, arcadia.

My research focuses on practices of wildlife conservation and ecological intervention in places of ambiguous and contested sovereignty. My dissertation investigates how the everyday practices of Okinawan-Japanese who engage with the predicaments of animal death, extinction, and emergence come to potentially turn nature into a proxy for "nation" and become for practitioners an alternative form of political participation.

In my ethnographic practice, I learn from Okinawan-Japanese foresters, wildlife photographers, and Shinto-inspired Japanese right-wing nationalists who oppose Okinawa's militarization through forms of ecological activism. In a place often regarded as a military colony, what are the strictures of non-experts' interventions aimed at mediating the vulnerability of wildlife, in the absence of robust laws protecting animals and nature? Placing anti-base Japanese right-wing nationalist groups and a nascent forestry collective’s volunteer anti-poaching patrols in constellation, my research hopes to investigate the ways in which the ecological and infrastructural vulnerability, faunal richness, and ambiguous sovereignty of a place kept in a state of "alegality" (Shimabuku, 2019) comes to potentially catalyze and incubate diverse nationalistic sentiments and practices.

Previously, before turning to Japan for my dissertation research, I lived in India for over a year as a Hindi/Urdu Language Fellow with the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS). My master’s thesis at the University of Chicago, advised by John D. Kelly, investigated the constitution of kinship technologies in an Urdu-speaking cellphone repair store on Chicago’s Devon Avenue.

Regional focus within Japan: Kyushu, and Ryukyu (Okinawa, Yaeyama)

I earned a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology, and a B.A. in Environmental Sciences/Ecology from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. Before joining the Stanford Anthropology community, I earned the M.A. in Social Sciences at the University of Chicago.

Shimabuku, Annmaria M. 2019. Alegal: Biopolitics and the Unintelligibility of Okinawan Life. Fordham University Press


Aaron Hopes