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.
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.
2022. “Being Noted.” American Ethnologist, a Journal of the American Ethnological Society.
2022. “Living a Good Death: A Review of Stonington’s Spirit Ambulance.” Review of Scott
2020 Stonington’s The Spirit Ambulance: Choreographing the End of Life in Thailand (2020). Medical
2019. Review of Nicholas Rose’s Our Psychiatric Future. The Politics of Mental Health.
Cambridge: Polity Press. Pp. vii-258. Ethos. 47(1): e1-e3.
2017. “In the Name of the People: Magic and the Enigma of Health Governance in Thailand.”
Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, Issue 22, September.
2016. “Rule by Good People: Health Politics and the Violence of Moral Authority in Thailand.”
Cultural Anthropology. 31(1): 106-129.
2013. “Wrapped in Plastic: Transformation and Alienation in the New Finnish Economy.”
Cultural Anthropology. 28 (1): 1-21.