Branding a pandemic response

The biopolitics of (marketing) infection control in Japan

Authors

  • Rebecca Carlson Tokyo University
  • Hiroto Hatano National Center for Global Health and Medicine

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/sols.23524

Keywords:

Covid-19, nation branding, biopower, governance, Japan, metapragmatic frames

Abstract

Although there is little consensus on the precise reasons Japan managed to maintain a relatively low number of Covid cases overall in 2020, the Japanese government was quick to publicize their approach as a success, calling it the ‘Japan Model’. Drawing on interviews with physicians working in Tokyo area hospitals during the pandemic as well as Japanese and English language media, we argue that this promotion is an example of the way nation branding is a form of biopower. Although physicians ultimately critiqued the government for its failure to implement clear public health policies, they simultaneously relied on its promotion of Japan’s superior culture to rationalize publicized epidemiological successes. This paper argues that as branding works to metapragmatically frame, and then activate, messages already in public circulation, it coopts individuals to independently take up branding practices, symbolically displacing those messages from government programs.

Author Biographies

Rebecca Carlson, Tokyo University

Rebecca Carlson is Associate Professor of media anthropology at Tokyo University, Japan. Her research focuses broadly on the production of subjectivities, knowledge and power in the transnational circulation of technology and digital media. She has published articles on videogame localization, the Cool Japan branding program, the ethnographic study of computer code in the medical sciences in Japan, and the skeptical division between anthropology and the natural sciences.

Hiroto Hatano, National Center for Global Health and Medicine

Hiroto Hatano is a medical intern at National Center for Global Health and Medicine, Japan. His research interests include medical anthropology, respirology, and molecular biology.

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Published

2023-03-16

How to Cite

Carlson, R., & Hatano, H. (2023). Branding a pandemic response: The biopolitics of (marketing) infection control in Japan. Sociolinguistic Studies, 16(4), 485–503. https://doi.org/10.1558/sols.23524