Branding a pandemic response
The biopolitics of (marketing) infection control in Japan
Keywords:Covid-19, nation branding, biopower, governance, Japan, metapragmatic frames
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.
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