Daena Funahashi

Research Expertise and Interest

Political anthropology, critical theory, Crisis of Legitimacy, Burnout, economy of excess, scientific authority, Nordic Welfare, sociocultural anthropology, Southeast Asia

Research Description

Daena Funahashi’s work examines the force of speechlessness, the uncanny, and what lies in the shadow of what can be named. In her book, Untimely Sacrifices: Work and Death in Finland (Cornell 2023), Funahashi brings classic anthropological scholarship on exchange and sacrifice to bear on contemporary concerns with the sustainability of human labor. Specifically, she argues that while workplace burnout as a category within psychology and labor creates a certain framework through which individuals can better manage their energetic expenditure, this language of 'management' in turn hides a deeper possibility: that what drives exchange may lie outside the calculus of the social. Placing burnout within a long line of fatigue conditions that emerged in industrial labor history, Funahashi puts forward a novel notion that this impulse to name and to domesticate what moves us to labor repeats precisely because what drives us to expend ourselves is that aspect of social existence that demands the sacrifice of reason. 

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 legitimacy there (Funahashi 2016), she examines the multiple iterations of the Thai constitution in the last century to re-theorize legitimacy as resting not on what can be constituted, founded, and made legible for all, but on what remains to be established as such. 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.

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