Daena Funahashi

Job title: 
Assistant Professor

Daena Funahashi is a sociocultural anthropologist interested in examining the force of speechlessness, the uncanny, and what lies in the shadow of what can be named. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Cornell University and is currently a member of the Medical Anthropology Program, the Center for Southeast Asia Studies (CSEAS), Institute of European Studies, The Program in Critical Theory and an affiliated faculty with the DE in Political Economy. Her work has been funded by the IIE-Fulbright program, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, Aarhus University Research Foundation and the Hellman Fund.

Funahashi’s work attends to moments of negativity, singularity and accident—all instances that fall out of the calculation of political and economic projects that attempt to transform the fabric of the real. In addressing the limits of what could be projected and articulated, she is particularly interested in rethinking political economy, political legitimacy and scientific authority through what remains illegible to what we believe we can make legible.

In her first book, Untimely Sacrifices: Work and Death in Finland (Cornell University Press, 2023), Funahashi brings classic anthropological scholarship on exchange and sacrifice to bear on contemporary concerns with the future of state welfare, labor and stress, labor’s attritional force. Through her ethnographic work conducted in Finland at rehabilitation centers for a stress disorder, occupational burnout, Funahashi rethinks the demands of the social through notions
of sacrifice. Against the clinical promise that stress can be managed via taking account of one’s energetic expenditure, she raises an alternative perspective that what moves us to give our time and energy escapes the transactional logic of the ledger. Instead, for Funahashi, burnout touches upon a disquiet associated with the failures of our attempts to identify, and thus to domesticate what moves us. In this book, she reveals how there is a certain horror to social existence, one not attended to in its full ethnographic potential by studies in state welfare, medical categorization and therapeutic practice.

In her second book project, she takes this concern between what is possible to make legible and what resists articulation to Thailand. Following earlier work on the issue of political authority there (Funahashi 2016), she examines the multiple iterations of the Thai constitution in the last century to explore the relationship between legality and legitimacy. Building on political theory, psychoanalysis and literature, especially studies on the act of writing, Funahashi questions what writing constitutes, but more importantly, how the act of re-writing, tearing and desecrating should be seen as essential to any possibility for establishing political legitimacy.