Chancy J. Gatlin-Anderson
Doctoral student and instructor of General Anthropology and Global Cultural Diversity
Advisor: Clare Wilkinson
MA: anthropology, Georgia State University
Research Project: Tokyo’s Potchari Girls: Shifting Body Image within Japan’s Plus-Sized Fashion Community
I study Japanese plus-size women, body diversity, community organization, and plus-size fashion. I aim to learn about body-image related struggles that Japanese plus-size women face, how they work to overcome those struggles, how they form community, and the ways in which they turn to fashion to form that community.
I spent two months in Tokyo this summer, carrying out a four-phase pilot research study for my dissertation project. I also participated in an intensive Japanese language program with support from an International Education of Students Grant. In the first phase, I attended plus-size fashion events hosted by Japan’s premier plus-size fashion magazine, La farfa, where I built rapport with plus-size models, designers, magazine editors, consumers, and fans. In phase two, I interviewed four La farfa models, the magazine’s chief editor, and numerous plus-size clothing store workers and consumers.
In phase three, I went shopping! I aimed to document my personal experience as a plus-size clothing shopper in Japan. In phase four, I carried out a qualitative retail survey of the Shibuya 109 shopping mall. I surveyed each store and collected style information, recorded the presence or absence of free sizes (one-size-fits-all), and the availability of plus-sized clothing.
Based on my pilot data, I argue that (1) many Japanese plus-sized women have experienced body shaming, (2) Japanese women create community through mutual body-related struggle, (3) plus-size models are significant contributors to body acceptance, and (4) models influence plus-size Japanese women’s attraction to plus-size fashion as a means to create community. My preliminary research suggests that Japanese women have created community through mutual struggles with body shaming and limited clothing access.
My research illustrates this community’s positioning at the forefront of the Japanese body positive movement through plus-sized fashion. I presented my pilot research data at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada, in November on a panel titled The Climate of Commodity Discourses: Values We Produce, Market, and Consume.
Moving forward, I plan to collect more interview data and to conduct an analysis of Japanese plus-size women, their social media discourse, and their online community organization. I plan to return to Japan in 2020 for further research.