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MPhil in Health, Medicine and Society


Assistant Professor of Medical Anthropology



I am a social and medical anthropologist specialising in Japan, with primary research interests spanning health and wellbeing; aging and the life course; and art and creativity.

I have conducted extensive ethnographic fieldwork with two distinct groups of people in the Kansai region of Japan: independently living older people (and those in their circles of care); and contemporary visual artists. Among both groups I have been especially interested in themes of motivation and purpose, life choices, reflexivity, and agency.  My first monograph, Making Meaningful Lives: Tales from an Aging Japan (based on my doctoral dissertation at the University of Oxford and published in 2019 by University of Pennsylvania Press), explores the lived experience of aging in urban Japan, and the ways in which older people construct a meaningful and satisfying life through narrative activity and practices of care which pervade everyday sociality. The book describes their efforts to navigate pervasive tensions between dependence and freedom, or between a rich social life and a desired level of separation in which the burdens imposed by ‘sticky’ social relationships are minimised; it argues that balancing acts of this kind are central to what it means to live well. This fieldwork among older Japanese also underpins a series of journal articles addressing a broad range of topics including care; hope and hopelessness; happiness; and gratitude, among others. 

My research on art and artists, carried out alongside my work with older people, has sought to understand the nature of artistic production and creative collaboration in contemporary Japan, and to explore art as a form of meaningful work. It moves beyond stereotypical Western notions of the ‘lone’ creative artist by showing how creativity is a deeply socially and distributed phenomenon that emerges within particular configurations of relationships, in what I describe as an ‘atmospheric’ way.  This work seeks to develop an analytical framework based around the concept of the art event, and using this to bridge conventional divides between performance and visual art, and between audience and artist. 

I am the Principal Investigator on an AHRC funded Leadership Fellowship project, entitled The Work of Art in Contemporary Japan: Inner and outer worlds of creativity. In this project, drawing on visual and sensory methodologies alongside narrative phenomenology, the aim is to understand how artists combine narrative and non-narrative resources in building both a sense of self and a distinctive understanding of the creative process. I am also currently a co-investigator on an AHRC Research Network Scheme Grant, Groups, Clubs, and Scenes: Informal Creative Practices in Japan, with Dr Jennifer Coates (University of Sheffield).

Iza Kavedžija's profile on the Social Anthropology Department website


Anthropology of the life course and aging; wellbeing; meaning in life; life stories; narratives; motivations; art and creativity; imagination; temporality; future; hope; anthropological theory; Japan and Europe.

Iza Kavedžija


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