Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions & Centre for Anthropology and Mental Health Research in Action

Dr Fabio Gygi

Key information

Department of Anthropology and Sociology Senior Lecturer Japan Research Centre Chair
Department of Anthropology and Sociology, Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions & Centre for Anthropology and Mental Health Research in Action
PhD (London)
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
+44 (0)20 7898 4417
Support hours
Tuesdays: 4-6 PM


I was born and raised in Switzerland, but spent my formative years in Japan, Germany and England. After receiving an MA in European Ethnology and Japanese Studies from the University of Tübingen, I was awarded a PhD in social anthropology by UCL. Before joining SOAS I spent three years as an assistant professor of sociology at the Doshisha University in Kyoto.

Research interests

I started out in historical anthropology by looking at the material culture of war and how `unspeakable` war experiences were embodied in artefacts called trench art, made predominately in the First World War, and how these influenced the post-war avant-garde in France and Germany.

This primed my interest in materiality and the relationships people entertain with their possessions, an interest I followed when I started working on hoarding and the different forms it takes in different cultural settings. The brunt of my fieldwork was done in Tokyo, where I helped people clean up their apartments and houses as a form of participant observation and conducted interviews with hoarders, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers.

My research focuses on three aspects:

  1. How people deal with their possessions and the everyday cosmologies they engender.
  2. The way hoarding has become an officially recognized pathology (the DSM-V 2013 classifies it as an independent disorder within the larger category of obsessive-compulsive disorders) and the way gender is materialized through things and the practices associated with them in the Japanese context.

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Luba Ampleva The Beautiful Other: What Lies Behind the Image of Russian Fashion Models in Contemporary Japan. (working title)
Hanming Cai Identification in Contemporary Hong Kong: Ethnographic Exploration on the Politics of Cantopop and Its Lyrics
Stella Dixon Unravelling the Seasons, Unravelling Japan? The impact of climate on seasons and seasonality in Tokyo
Lyman Gamberton 'Each Life Has Its Place': Transgender Experiences in Contemporary Japan
Emma Horsley-Heather NHK's children's broadcasting and its effect on Japanese identity and homogeneity
Declan John Prout "I'm still me": Hauntologies of the hyogaki sedai in Sci-Fi Anime of the 1990s and 2000s
Mr Kanji Kitamura Toward a Theory of Cultural Untranslatability with Application to Japan, UK and USA Cross-cultural Business Management and Beyond
Maiko Kodaka 'Embrace me as I am’: Japanese Pornography for Women and the Fan community Surrounding Male Pornstars
Artour Mitski "Japanese lifestyle migrants in Bangkok: embodied practices and identity negotiation."
Abhishek Mohanty Blurred imaginaries: Future-making, enterprise, and health apps in Chandigarh and London
Cornelis Rijneveld High Fun: An ethnography of HIV risk and stigma among queer men in urban India (working title)
Eric Smith Vintner A World of Our Own: The Negotiation of Cosmology in Contemporary Japanese Animation
Cas Sutherland Queer Feminist Kinship: An Intersectional Approach to Activism and Community in Taipei, Taiwan
Yuqi Wang Between secularity and religiosity: a Buddhism-oriented town in Mainland China (working title)
Miho Zlazli A case study of Master-Apprentice initiative with new speakers of Ryukyuan languages (Working Title)


Contact Fabio