Amy Borovoy

Professor of East Asian Studies
Office Phone
208 Jones Hall
Office Hours
Wednesday: 11:00 am-12:00 pm

Or by appointment

  • Ph.D. in Anthropology, Stanford University
  • M.A. in Anthropology, Stanford University
  • B.A. in Psychology, Magna cum laude, Harvard University

Amy Borovoy is a cultural anthropologist interested in the ethics of care and social democracy in modern Japan. Her work explores the ways in which the family has served as a surrogate for the state and public health regimes. She has looked at the gendered division of labor in Japan as context for social security and social stability, and has explored the relationship of gendered labor to public health and mental health care. Borovoy’s book, The Too-Good Wife: Alcohol, Codependence, and the Politics of Nurturance in Postwar Japanconcerns male alcoholism and the role of women’s labor in managing the disease and preventing heavy drinking from disrupting society and compromising productivity. The book explores the translation of American popular psychology into Japan and the reception of ideas about “enabling” in a society in which women’s work is historically recognized as “productive” labor. Borovoy has also written on the phenomenon of hikikomorieating disorders, and public health campaigns in contemporary Japan.   

Borovoy’s current book manuscript in progress, A Living Laboratory: Japan in American Social Thought, analyzes Japan itself as an area of study in the postwar American social sciences. In the latter part of the 20th century, Japan studies was central to conversations around how modernity and economic development would take shape around the world. Japan was a beacon of development and prosperity in an age when communism represented the other economically successful counter-model to American liberal democracy. The book traces how canonical texts, such as The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Japan’s New Middle Class, and For Harmony and Strength engaged in this conversation, constructing Japan as a space to think with, and creating terrain for reflecting on the particularity of American society, capitalism, and individualism. 

Affiliations and Support 

Borovoy’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Fulbright Fellowship, American Council for Learned Societies, Abe Fellowship, Japan Foundation, and National Endowment for the Humanities. She was a member of the School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, 2006-7 and a visitor in 2016-17. 

She has been affiliated as research associate at Hitotsubashi University, International Christian University, and Sophia University.  

She has also served as an officer in the Society for East Asian Anthropology and on the Northeast Asia Council (Association of Asian Studies). At Princeton, she is faculty affiliate with the Global Health Program, University Center for Human Values, and Program in Ethnographic Studies.  She serves on the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Japanese Studies.

Recent Publications: 

Between Biopolitical Governance and Care: Rethinking Health, Selfhood, and Social Welfare in East Asia” (Borovoy and Zhang), with Li Zhang, Medical Anthropology, 36(1): 1-5, 2017

Japan’s Public Health Paradigm: Governmentality and the Containment of Harmful Behavior,” Medical Anthropology, 36(1): 32-46, 2017

Robert Bellah’s Search for Community and Ethical Modernity in Japan Studies,” The Journal of Asian Studies, 75(2): 467-494, 2016 

 “Japanese and American Public Health Approaches to Preventing Population Weight Gain:  A Role for Paternalism?” with Christina Roberto, Social Science & Medicine, vol. 143, 62-70, October 2015

Doi Takeo and the Rehabilitation of Particularism in Postwar Japan,” The Journal of Japanese Studies, 38(2): 263-295,2012

Decentering Agency in Feminist Theory: Recuperating the Family as a Feminist Project,” with Kristen Ghodsee, Women’s Studies International Forum, 35(3): 153-165, 2012


Borovoy - Too Good Wife
The Too Good Wife, U. C. Press, 2005


Japan's Hidden Youths, Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 2008


Japanese and American approaches to public health
Japanese and American Approaches to Public Health, Social Science and Medicine, 2015