ann-elise lewallen

Assistant Professor
Area: Modern Japanese Cultural Studies, Anthropology

Ph.D., University of Michigan

Office: HSSB 2256
Office Hours: T, 2:30-3:30 W, 2:30-3:30

Email Address

ann-elise lewallen’s research focuses on indigenous political movements and cultural revival, environmental change and indigenous survival strategies, and gender and ethnic minorities in contemporary Japan. She is also concerned with ethnographic research ethics and issues of knowledge construction in relation to host communities. One of lewallen’s long-term projects focuses on intersectionality issues such as the complex interplay between ethnic/social status, gender, and other marginalized subjectivities. Minority women in Japan contest their multi-layered identities through the rubric of multiple discrimination to achieve empowerment and push for government accountability toward an increasingly multiethnic Japan. Another long-term project focuses on eco-tourism and Ainu efforts to regain land and resource access through demonstrating sustainable practices on the land.

In her current book project, The Fabric of Indigeneity: Modern Ainu Identity and Gender in Postcolonial Japan, lewallen analyzes indigenous Ainu women’s use of cultural production as an idiom of resistance and trans-generational cultural revival initiatives across the Ainu community. In the book, she will explore how Ainu women forge identities to demonstrate cultural viability, by tracking their efforts to both produce and preserve material arts as a way of memorializing ancestors, recuperating self-worth, and generating income. Ainu women’s strategies to reinscribe traditional gender-segregated labor, she argues, enable network-building with indigenous women globally, while challenging feminist discourses favoring gender equity for all women. Her work analyzes how indigenous politics, practices, and identity formation are all profoundly shaped by social constructions of gender.

lewallen has lived in urban and rural Japan since 1994 and has worked closely with the indigenous Ainu community in Hokkaido as an anthropologist and advocate during the last decade. She was a visiting researcher at Otaru University (2004-2005), at Hokkaido University (2006-2008), and is currently a visiting researcher with the Hokkaido University Center for Ainu and Indigenous Studies. Her research has been generously supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Fulbright Program, the Social Science Research Council, the Japanese Ministry of Education, and the Northeast Asia Council and Japan-U.S. Friendship Council.


Selected Articles, Reviews & Entries

  • 2014 “The Gender of Cloth: Ainu Women and Cultural Revitalization.” In Beyond Ainu Studies. Co-editor with Mark Hudson and Mark Watson.  Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
  • 2014 “Introduction.” Co-authored with Mark Watson. In Beyond Ainu Studies. Co-editor with Mark Hudson and Mark Watson.  Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.
  • 2013  “Bones of Contention: Negotiating Anthropological Ethics within Fields of Ainu Refusal.”  In Critical Readings on Ethnic Minorities and Multiculturalism in Japan. Ed. by Richard Siddle. Leiden and Boston: Brill.
  • 2013 “Contemplating the Meaning of Resilience for Indigenous Peoples.” Resilience: An Environmental Humanities Journal. 1:1.
  • 2013 “Ikotsu ha Kataru: Ainu Minzoku to Rinri Mondai” (Japanese translation of “Bones of Contention: Negotiating Anthropological Ethics within Fields of Ainu Refusal”) In From Local History to World History: Toward a New Study of History. Edited by Namikawa Kenji and Kawanishi Hideo. Tokyo: Iwata Shoten.
  • 2013  “The Ainu.” In The Indigenous World 2013, ed. Cæcilie Mikkelsen. Copenhagen: IWGIA.
  • 2012  “The Ainu.” In The Indigenous World 2012, ed. Cæcilie Mikkelsen. Copenhagen: IWGIA.
  • 2011 “The Ainu.” In The Indigenous World 2011, ed. Kathrin Wessendorf. Copenhagen: IWGIA.
  • 2008 “Indigenous at last! Ainu Grassroots Organizing and the Indigenous Peoples Summit in Ainu Mosir.” The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 48-6-08, November 30, 2008.
  • 2007  “Bones of Contention: Negotiating Anthropological Ethics within Fields of Ainu Refusal.” Critical Asian Studies 39 (4): 509-540.
  • 2003 Strategic ‘Indigeneity’ and the Global Indigenous Women’s Movement. Theme issue, “Gender and Globalism,” Michigan Feminist Studies 17: 105-130.

Book Reviews

  • 2012 Review of Sarah M. Strong’s Ainu Spirits Singing: The Living World of Chiri Yukie’s Ainu Shin’yoshu. In Japanese Language and Literature 46: 1, pp 47-52.
  • 2011 Review of Working through Skin: Making Leather, Making a Multicultural Japan. By Joseph D. Hankins. In Dissertation Reviews. Posted at

Courses Taught

  • Anthropology of Japan (ANTH/EACS 103B)
  • Globalizing Japan: Culture and Society (Japan 150)
  • Indigenous Movements in Asia (ANTH 191/EACS 140)
  • Ethnographic Research Methods: Ethics and Engagement (EACS 152/252, ANTH 129/229)
  • Environmental Justice in Asia (TBA)
  • Ethnic and Social Diversity in Japan (Japan 188)
  • Advanced Japanese Readings II (Japan 145)