SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Dr Fabio Gygi

PhD (London)
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Publications


Fabio Gygi
Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Lecturer in Anthropology

SOAS Japan Research Centre (JRC)

Chair, Japan Research Centre

Dr Fabio Gygi
Email address:
+44 (0)20 7898 4417
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Academic Support Hours:
Tuesdays 4-6pm, see details in bio


Office Hours

Tuesdays 4-6pm, in person and online please sign up via Google documents.

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.


Modules Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Abhishek Mohanty, Blurred Imaginaries: Future-making and digital health in Delhi
  • Artour Mitski, "Japanese lifestyle migrants in Bangkok: embodied practices and identity negotiation."
  • Cas Sutherland, Queer Feminist Kinship: An Intersectional Approach to Activism and Community in Chengdu, China (working title)
  • Cornelis Rijneveld, High Fun: An ethnography of HIV risk and stigma among queer men in urban India (working title)
  • Elizabeth Carla Smith, Cosmopolitan Creatives: Asian Self-Making and Consumption in London (working title)
  • Emily Imamura, Power, Identity, and Audiences in Indigenous Tourism: Ainu Entanglements in Hokkaido and Beyond (working title)
  • Emma Horsley-Heather, NHK's children's broadcasting and its effect on Japanese identity and homogeneity
  • Eric Smith Vintner, A World of Our Own: The Negotiation of Cosmology in Contemporary Japanese Animation
  • Hanming Cai, Identification in Contemporary Hong Kong: Ethnographic Exploration on the Politics of Cantopop and Its Lyrics
  • Kanji Kitamura, Toward a Theory of Cultural Untranslatability with Application to Japan, UK and USA Cross-cultural Business Management and Beyond
  • Luba Ampleva, The Beautiful Other: What Lies Behind the Image of Russian Fashion Models in Contemporary Japan. (working title)
  • Lyman Gamberton, 'Each Life Has Its Place': Transgender Experiences in Contemporary Japan
  • Maiko Kodaka, 'Embrace me as I am’: Japanese Pornography for Women and the Fan community Surrounding Male Pornstars
  • Miho Zlazli, A case study of Master-Apprentice initiative with new speakers of Ryukyuan languages (Working Title)


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.



Gygi, Fabio (2021) 'Social Dreaming in Japan: Some Thoughts on Sharing Dreams as a Form of Experiential Learning'. 東京外国語大学国際日本学研究 Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Japan Studies Review, (2), pp 1-18. [Forthcoming]

Gygi, Fabio (2019) 'Hôtes et otages : Entasser des objets chez soi dans le Japon contemporain'. L' Homme: revue française d'anthropologie, (231/2), pp 151-172.

Gygi, Fabio (2019) 'Things that Believe: Talismans, Amulets, Dolls, and How to Get Rid of Them'. Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, (45) 2, pp 423-452.

Gygi, Fabio (2011) '行為者としての「モノ」ー エージェンジーの概念の拡張に関する一考察 [The Thing as Actor: Some Reflections on the Extension of the Concept of Agency]'. 同志社社会学研究 15, pp 1-12.

Gygi, Fabio (2008) 'Mnemonic Monsters: Memory, Oblivion and Continuity in Japanese Popular Culture'. MINIKOMI, (75), pp 5-12.

Edited Books or Journals

Gygi, Fabio and Hansen, Gitte Marianne, (eds.), (2022) The Work of Gender: Service, Performance and Fantasy in Contemporary Japan. Copenhagen/Honolulu: NIAS Press/University of Hawai'i. (Gendering Asia).

Book Chapters

Gygi, Fabio (2022) 'The Great Heisei Doll Massacre : Disposal and the Production of Ignorance in Contemporary Japan'. In: Brox, Trine and Williams-Oerberg, Elizabeth, (eds.), Buddhism and Waste: The Excess, Discard, and Afterlife of Buddhist Consumption. London: Bloomsbury, pp 103-124.

Gygi, Fabio and Hansen, Gitte Marianne (2021) 'Introduction: Gender as Work'. The Work of Gender: Service, Performance and Fantasy in Contemporary Japan. Copenhagen/Honolulu: NIAS/University of Hawai'i Press, pp 1-35. [Forthcoming]

Gygi, Fabio (2021) 'Gender, Substance, Fantasy: Undisciplined Observations on Gender Presentations in Japan'. The Work of Gender: Service, Performance and Fantasy in Contemporary Japan. Copenhagen/Honolulu: NIAS Press/University of Hawai'i, pp 256-269. [Forthcoming]

Gygi, Fabio (2018) 'Robot Companions: The Animation of Technology and the Technology of Animation in Japan'. In: Astor-Aguilera, Miguel and Harvey, Graham, (eds.), Rethinking Relations and Animism: Personhood and Materiality. London, UK: Routledge, pp 94-111.

Gygi, Fabio (2018) 'The Metamorphosis of Excess: ‘Rubbish Houses’ and the Imagined Trajectory of Things in Post-Bubble Japan'. In: Cwiertka, Katarzyna J. and Machotka, Ewa, (eds.), Consuming Life in Post-Bubble Japan: A Transdisciplinary Perspective. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, pp 129-151.

Gygi, Fabio (2009) 'Shaping Matter, Memories and Mentalities: The German Steel Helmet from Artefact to Afterlife'. In: Cornish, Paul and Saunders, Nicholas J, (eds.), Contested Objects: Material Memories of the Great War. London: Routledge, pp 27-44.

Gygi, Fabio (2006) 'Fassungen des Unfassbaren: Über Reliquien, Relikte und Repräsentation in Zeiten des Krieges'. In: Korff, Gottfried, (ed.), Alliierte im Himmel. Populare Religiosität und Kriegserfahrung. Tübingen: TVV.

Gygi, Fabio (2004) 'Shattered Experiences – Recycled Relics: Strategies of Representation and the Legacy of the Great War'. In: Saunders, Nicholas J, (ed.), Matters of Conflict: Material Culture, Memory, and the First World War.. London: Routledge, pp 72-89.

Gygi, Fabio (2002) 'L'objet ne parle pas de lui-même, il faut qu`il soit interrogé: Entretien avec Freddy Raphaël de `Université Marc Bloch à Strasbourg'. In: Korff, Gottfried, (ed.), Kleines aus dem Großen Krieg: Metamorphosen militärischen Mülls. Tübingen: TVV, pp 164-170.

Conference Items

Gygi, Fabio (2017) 'Mnemonic Monsters Redux: Traumatic Signature and the Afterlife of Image-Objects in Japanese Popular Culture' In: 26th Japanese Anthropology Workshop, 01 Sep 2015 - 04 Sep 2015, Istanbul, Turkey.


This list was last generated on Saturday, 28th May 2022, 15:13 Europe/London.