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John Willis Traphagan is Professor of Religious Studies and Anthropology and Centennial Commission in the Liberal Arts Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. Traphagan's research has largely focused on rural Japan, with most of his research conducted in Iwate Prefecture. He has published extensively on ethnography, aging, health, and ritual in rural Japan, and also writes on globalization and internal migration. In 2010 he was elected Secretary General of the Japan Anthropology Workshop, the world's largest organization of anthropologists working on Japan.
Early life and education
Traphagan was born on December 27, 1961 in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in the Boston area, attending public schools in Framingham and Chelmsford, where he graduated from Chelmsford High School. His father, Willis Traphagan, is Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and his mother, Jeanne Elizabeth Long Traphagan (d. 2004), was a professional French Horn player and businesswoman.
Traphagan received his Bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in 1983, his Masters of Arts in Religion and Social Ethics from Yale University in 1986, and his PhD in Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1997.
Traphagan was an instructor at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Anthropology (1996); an instructor at the Pennsylvania Governor's School for International Studies (1997); an adjunct lecturer at the University of Michigan Department of Anthropology (1999); a research affiliate in the University of Michigan Population Studies Center (1999–2001); and an assistant professor of anthropology at California State University, Fullerton (1999–2001).
Traphagan also received several fellowships, including Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships for summer language study in Japan in 1992 and for the academic year in 1993, a University of Pittsburgh Nippon Sheet Glass Summer Intensive Language in 1994, and a 3-year Boren (NSEP) Area and Language Studies Doctoral Fellowship, beginning in 1994. He was a visiting research fellow at the University of Tokyo Institute of Oriental Studies in 1995–1996; a visiting researching at Iwate University, Morioka, Japan, in 1998; a National Institute on Aging postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan Population Studies Center from 1997 to 1999; and a teaching fellow at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Anghtropology in 1994. In 1995–1996 he was a Fulbright Scholar to Japan. All together, Traphagan spent 4 years doing ethnographic research in Japan, with a focus on the elderly population.
From 2001 to 2006 Traphagan was an assistant professor in the Department of Asian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. From 2004 to 2007 he was Director of that university's Center for East Asian Studies. Since 2006, he has worked as Professor of Asian Studies, Anthropology, and Religious Studies at the University of Texas.
Traphagan is a frequent presenter at national and international symposia on the subjects of Japanese ethnography, demographics, aging and health care. He organized the 2000 Cultural Construction of Dementia Conference in Fullerton, California, the 2005 Association for Anthropology and Gerontology Annual Conference in Austin, Texas, and the 2010 Japan Anthropology Workshop 20th Conference in Austin, Texas. He was a co-organizer of the 2004 Japanese Families in a Global Age: Conflict and Change Conference in Pittsburgh.
In 2010 Traphagan was named Secretary General of the Japan Anthropology Workshop.
- Rethinking Autonomy: A Critique of Principlism in Biomedical Ethics. Albany: State University of New York Press. 2013. ISBN 978-1438445526.
- Toward Sustainable Cities: Readings in the anthropology of urban environments. Leiden: Institute of Cultural and Social Studies, University of Leiden. 1998. ISBN 90-6624-101-2. (with P. Nas)
- Taming Oblivion: Aging bodies and the fear of senility in Japan. Albany: State University of New York Press. 2000. ISBN 0-7914-4499-6.
- Demographic Change and the Family in Japan's Aging Society. Albany: State University of New York Press. 2003. ISBN 0-7914-5649-8. (with John Knight)
- The Practice of Concern: Ritual, well-being, and aging in rural Japan. Durham: Carolina Academic Press. 2004. ISBN 0-89089-406-X.
- Wearing Cultural Styles in Japan: Concepts of tradition and modernity in practice. Albany: State University of New York Press. 2006. ISBN 0-7914-6697-3. (with Christopher S. Thompson)
- Imagined Families, Lived Families: Culture and kinship in contemporary Japan. Albany: State University of New York Press. 2008. ISBN 978-0-7914-7577-5. (with Akiko Hashimoto)
Edited journal issues
- Thang, Leng Leng; Mui Teng Yap; Traphagan, John W., eds. "Aging in Asia": Special issue of the Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 20(4), 2007.
- Traphagan, John W., ed. "Culture, Care, and Aging in Asia": Special issue of the Journal of Long Term Home Health Care, 25(1), 2007.
- "Altruism, Pathology, and Culture" in Pathological Altruism, Oakley, Barbara; Madhavan, Guruprasad; Wilson, David Sloan Wilson, eds. 2011: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-973857-2
- "Generations Apart: Burdens, Bad Families, and Elder Suicide in Rural Japan" in Faces of Aging: The Lived Experiences of the Elderly in Japan, Matsumoto,Yoshiko, ed. 2011: Stanford University Press, p. 87ff. ISBN 978-0-8047-7148-1.
- "John W. Traphagan". University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
- Munir, Huma (21 March 2011). "Quake, tsunami create anxiety among family of Japan victims". The Daily Texan. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
- "History". Japan Anthropology Workshop. Retrieved 31 July 2011.