Taming Oblivion examines the cultural construction of senility in Japan and the moral implications of dependent behavior for older Japanese. While the biomedical construction of senility-as-pathology has become increasingly the norm in North America, in Japan a folk category of senility exists known as boke. Although symptomatically and conceptually overlapping with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of senile dementia, boke is distinguished from unambiguously pathological conditions. Rather than being viewed as a disease, boke is seen as an illness over which people have some degree of control. John Traphagan's ethnographic study of older Japanese explores their experiences as they contemplate and attempt to prevent or delay the boke condition.
John W. Traphagan is an anthropologist and Professor in the Program in Human Dimensions of Organizations at the University of Texas at Austin. He also is a Visiting Professor in the Center for International Education at Waseda University in Tokyo. His most recent books on Japan include Cosmopolitan Rurality, Depopulation, and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in 21 st Century Japan (2020) and The Blood of Gutoku: A Jack Riddley Mystery in Japan (2021).