Natasha Durie

natasha durie

DPhil Student

St John's College

Thesis: Renovating ruins: An ethnography of vacant homes (akiya, 空き家) in rural Japan (working title).

Key words: Japan, houses, emptiness, renovation, hope

Research: With 28.7% of its population aged over 65, Japan has the fastest aging population in the world. Largely populated by elderly people, more than half of Japan’s municipalities are predicted to reach demographic collapse by 2040. Japan has approximately 8.49 million akiya (空き家), vacant homes. These detached houses were once inhabited but after years of neglect and decay have become striking visual reminders of postgrowth uncertainty. The main ethnographic focus of this project is the workers who supply the materials and labour for akiya renovation projects. I will conduct participant observation by occupying workshop spaces and accompanying visits to vacant properties and project sites. I will observe and participate in the exchange, circulation, and application of materials in relation to akiya renovation projects. I hope to understand the emic interpretive frames used by residents, labourers, and local officials to describe and make sense of the ruined and renovated landscape.

Funding: Co-funded by the ESRC and St John's College

Previous education: BSc Anthropology, University College London (2018-2021); MSc Social Anthropology, University of Oxford (2021-2022)