Assistant Professor John Davis joined the faculty at Denison in the fall of 2011. Prof. Davis is a socio-cultural anthropologist whose work explores the “social life” of rights by critically analyzing the processes by which transnational discourses and practices of human rights intersect with specific national and cultural contexts to shape everyday life. Prof. Davis’s dissertation used ethnographic modes of inquiry to illuminate the cultural politics of human rights in Japan through an exploration of how the burakumin minority operationalized the idea of human rights within their movement for social change.
Prof. Davis is currently completing a book manuscript titled “Animating Rights in Japan: The Politics of Buraku Liberation”. Prof. Davis has two new research projects underway. The first utilizes the case of burakumin as an opportunity to reconsider theories of race and minority subjectivity. It is at once an attempt to account for the wide-ranging and often conflicting narratives he encountered in Japan about what it meant to be “burakumin” and how his own positionality as an African American in Japan shaped his perspective on the topic. More often than not Prof. Davis became part of the focus of conversations with people as they invoked his status as a kokujin (“Black person”) to illustrate points of difference or similarity “the nature of the comparison varied with the speaker” between racial minorities and burakumin. Prof. Davis’s second line of research compares how concepts of race and ethnicity factor into genetics research in Japan and the United States respectively.