Discourses of anticipatory futures among contemporary Japanese younger adults

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This paper examines the ways in which younger adults in contemporary Japan discursively articulate possible futures under continuing conditions of socioeconomic precarity and marginalization (Brinton 2010), emphasizing how anticipation (Bryant and Knight, 2019) of antei 'stable' and fuantei 'unstable' futures organizes younger adults' perceptions of future possibility and of successful futures. Anticipation and anticipatory futures highlight the ways in which individuals' discourses of past and present social conditions delimit future possibilities, rendering the future as a realized present and foreclosing the possibility of imagining futures that diverge from the present. Data includes casual conversations recorded during extended ethnographic fieldwork with students at a public university in Yokohama, Japan; the current paper focuses on casual conversations with students at various stages of shuushoku katsudoo 'job hunting activities' and tracks these individuals interactionally conveyed alignments with respect to successful future work life. While describing successful lives as those that can endure (Povinelli, 2011) into the future, younger adults articulate the dangers of desire, which is to say of futures that are based on yume 'dreams' and yaritai koto 'things I want to do'. For younger adults such desires are perceived as leading to failure and to the exhaustion of life. This paper demonstrates how younger adults respond to economic neoliberalization through the management of risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-136
Number of pages18
JournalLanguage, Discourse and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Anticipation
  • Japan
  • Job hunting
  • Precarity
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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