Assistant Professor (2018~). Education: BA, 2007, Hokkaido University; MA, 2010, Brandeis University; PhD, 2016, Emory University. Publications: Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology; Contemporary Japan; Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology. Awards: Summer Residential Fellowship, The Social Science Research Council InterAsia Program, 2017; Dissertation Grant, The Wenner-Gren Foundation, 2013.
Suma Ikeuchi is a scholar of religion and culture who studies the intersection of diaspora, citizenship, and transnationalism with a focus on Global Asia. After obtaining her PhD from the Department of Anthropology at Emory University in 2016, she taught as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alabama before joining the Department of Liberal Arts at SAIC in 2018. While Suma is trained as a cultural anthropologist and professional ethnographer, her work crosses disciplinary boundaries by engaging other fields such as religious studies, migration studies, ethnic studies, cultural geography, Asian studies, and Latin American studies. Other than English, she speaks Japanese and Portuguese.
Suma’s first book, Jesus Loves Japan: Diasporic Return and Global Pentecostalism in a Brazilian Migrant Church, is forthcoming in 2019 from Stanford University Press. The book offers a rare window on the people at the crossroads of Asian return migration and Latin American Pentecostalism in transnational Japan. Grounded in detailed ethnographic materials collected over 14 months in Toyota City, Japan, it tells a compelling story about the Japanese-Brazilian migrants who experience charismatic Christianity as the “third culture” that can help them transcend ethno-national boundaries—the world where they have long been placed in an ambiguous space of hyphenated identity. Jesus Loves Japan illuminates why Pentecostal Christianity has flourished among people who inhabit some of the most fluid and contested boundaries—cultural, racial, and national—in this age of globalization.
Drawing on her research that probes the politics of boundary-making, Suma offers a variety of courses about religion, culture, and identity at SAIC. While the specific topics range from ethnography to Buddhism, her teaching always encourages students to reflect on how boundaries are made, crossed, and challenged.
Suma has recently begun working on a second book-length project tentatively entitled “Can Robots Become More Human Than Foreigners? Gender, Religion, and Technology in Aging Japan.” It explores Japan’s expanding care industry for the elderly and its entanglement with migration policy and medical technology. The country has been experimenting with two potential “solutions” for the pressing demand for labor in eldercare: foreign migrants and care robots. To analyze how migration and technology each reflects different sets of hopes and anxieties about national kinship among Japanese people, the study will compare the growing number of Filipina care workers and the burgeoning “care technology” industry in Japan. Suma conducted a pilot fieldwork at a number of NGOs, care training centers, and churches with foreign parishioners in the summer of 2018 and plans to carry out more research trips in the next few years. This new project expands on her first research on migration, citizenship, and religion, but also represents a new direction in her work for its foci on gender, aging, and technology.
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