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Embodying Stoicism: Family Crists as Intersubjective Practice and Cultural Critique

Karen Gainer Sirota

UCLA Sloan Center on Everyday Lives of Families
Working Paper No. 89


This paper explores the temporal horizons and hermeneutic contours of crisis as an analytic lens that affords a dialectical, processual view of intersubjective, socio-culturally mediated life worlds. I adopt a case study approach in interrogating the meaning-laden linkages and disjunctures that inform personal and political components of everyday family experience. With a focus on Japanese American life ways amidst a globalizing world context, the paper sheds light on children’s apprenticeship into culturally rooted dispositions that embody intergenerational, geopolitical vestiges of the World War II Japanese American internment. I draw upon ethnographically informed interviews and naturalistic video data collected by the Center on Everyday Lives of Families in tracing the transmission of socio-culturally informed values in crafting cultural identity and well-being amidst a Japanese American dual earner family residing in Los Angeles, California. A family dispute that sparks during a backyard basketball game provides a fulcrum that crystallizes valued lessons about proper embodied comportment, sportsmanship, and the display of affect. Focusing on these everyday moments and contexts of family life, I explore how cultural, affective, and socio-political meanings of stoicism are incorporated, negotiated, and reconfigured as embodied, intersubjectively shared orientations that encompass explicit and implicit communicative means. Further, I examine how these local, on-the-ground moments of family crisis involving the import and meanings of stoicism enact, and enfold, a cultural critique that moves along fissures in the everyday fabric of experience to embody and enjoin temporal horizons of past, present, and future.

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