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Public Zoom Talk with Allison Alexy

Families Together and Apart:  Divorce and Child Custdy in Contemporary Japan

Thursday 4/8/2021 @ 7 PM

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This presentation explores how changing ideals of parenting, and in particular fathering, are impacting relationships between parents and children after divorce in contemporary Japan. All dynamics of postdivorce kinship begin from the legal fact that there is no joint custody in Japan. Throughout the postwar era, rates of custody being granted to mothers have steadily increased and currently stand at about 80 percent. Moreover, sole legal custody is coupled with a strong cultural belief that a “clean break” can benefit children because it is psychologically less damaging to have no contact with one parent than to shuttle between two households. However, there is a growing movement, organized mostly by noncustodial fathers, to “reform” Japanese family law and popularize a joint custody option. In this presentation, I focus on both people who experienced a “clean break” divorce and those who are increasingly calling that disconnection into question. I argue that although there are no requirements for shared custody, a substantial minority of families sustain de facto joint custody. Demonstrating contested, shifting ideals of familial bonds, these attempts to share custody highlight desires to redress the disconnection divorce produces and to create connected families, even when they bring risks.

Allison Alexy is an assistant professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her research explores gender, kinship, intimacy, and law in contemporary Japan. She has recently published Intimate Disconnections: Divorce and the Romance of Independence in Contemporary Japan (University of Chicago Press, 2020), and Intimate Japan: Ethnographies of Closeness and Conflict (University of Hawai’i Press, 2019, coedited with Emma E. Cook).

Contact Michael Strausz at with questions.

Dial-In Information

Registration required

Thursday, April 8 at 7:00 pm

Virtual Event
Event Type

Lectures & Presentations

Target Audience

Students, Faculty & Staff






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