Gabriele Koch

Social Sciences (Anthropology)

Assistant Professor


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Dr Gabriele Koch received her PhD and MA in Anthropology from the University of Michigan and her BA in East Asian Studies from Stanford University. At the University of Michigan, Dr Koch’s writing and teaching received multiple honours, including the Louise Ann Williams Distinguished Dissertation Award from the Anthropology faculty. Her work has been supported by grants from Fulbright IIE and the National Science Foundation. Prior to joining Yale-NUS College, Dr Koch was a postdoctoral fellow at the Edwin O Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University.

Dr Koch is a cultural anthropologist whose work focuses on how globalising human rights and labour rights discourses intersect with longstanding histories of gender, labour, and care in urban Japan. Her book project, Human Rights in Japan’s Libidinal Economy, explores contestations over the meaning of labour and rights in Tokyo’s mainstream commercial sex industry. In Japan, female sex workers are ambivalent about their work not because it involves sexual services but because it is female care work. At the same time that the short-term employment of young Japanese women in this industry is being normalised, labour and human rights advocates are politicising these women in new ways. Based on 21 months of ethnographic fieldwork and archival research, Dr Koch’s manuscript examines how intimate relations in Tokyo’s sex industry are implicated within recent political-economic transformations to explore why sex workers do not recognise themselves in the advocacy of competing rights movements.

2016 “Producing Iyashi: Healing and Labor in Tokyo’s Sex Industry.” American Ethnologist 43(4): 704-716

2016 “Willing Daughters: The Moral Rhetoric of Filial Sacrifice and Financial Autonomy in Tokyo’s Sex Industry.” Critical Asian Studies 48(2):215-234

The Anthropological Imagination
The Anthropology of Human Rights
Sexual Economies