Amy Borovoy

Professor of Japanese Anthropology
Office Phone
208 Jones Hall
Office Hours
Wednesday: 2:30 pm-3:30 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

Borovoy is a cultural and medical anthropologist interested in how societies organize themselves to provide social care, public health, and mental health care to individuals. Her first book, The Too-Good Wife: Alcohol, Codependence, and the Politics of Nurturance in Postwar Japanconcerns women’s work in containing the social harms of heavy drinking. Through an ethnography of a Tokyo community health center, the book explores competing ethics of care and autonomy.

Borovoy has written on the issue of hikikomori, eating disorders in Japan, the behavioral psychology of mass public health screening, and the ethical commitment to inclusion and equality as it affects special education and mental health care. In 2022 she published an article on Covid-19 containment in Japan. Her most recent research looks at aging and the ethics of brain death and deceased and living organ donation in Japan and more broadly.

Borovoy’s current book manuscript project is an analysis of how postwar U.S. social scientists came to terms with Japan’s commitments to community, society, and family welfare. It focuses on five canonical texts in and how the authors carved space for imagining different pathways to modernity. In studying Japan’s commitment to familism, nation-ness, and anti-free market policies, they created new theories of collectivism, civil religion, the welfare society, and the power of social groups. The manuscript explores how, in surprising ways, Japan emerged as terrain for criticism and for probing the limits of American liberalism and individualism in the latter part of the 20th century.

She has been a recipient of the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission-National Endowment for the Humanities Social Science Fellowship (2017-18), Japan Foundation Fellowship for Long-Term Research (2011-2012), SSRC/CGP Abe Fellowship (2002-03), American Council of Learned Societies Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship (2006-07), Social Science Research Council Dissertation Write-Up Grant (1993-94), Fulbright Graduate Fellowship and National Science Foundation graduate research award (1992-93), as well as travel and research grants from the Asia Library Travel Grants Program, University of Michigan (2013) and Northeast Asia Council (2011, 2005).  

Borovoy was a member of the School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, 2006-7 and a visitor in 2016-17. She has also been a faculty research associate at Hitotsubashi University (2011-2012), International Christian University (2011-2012), and Sophia University. At Princeton she is faculty affiliate with the Global Japan Lab, Center for Health and Well-Being, Global Health Program, and University Center for Human Values.

Borovoy also sits as a community member on the Bioethics Committee of the Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick.