Merry White

Professor of Anthropology, College of Arts & Sciences

Dr. Merry White returns to Japan often to continue research in contemporary social and cultural topics. She presently is engaged in research on urban social spaces and social change in Japan, particularly on the history of the cafe. Her teaching includes courses on Japanese society, women in Asia, food and culture, and the anthropology of travel and tourism.

Dr. White’s past work includes books on Japanese education (The Japanese Educational Challenge, Free Press), internationalization (The Japanese Overseas, Free Press and Princeton UP), adolescence and popular culture (The Material Child, Free Press and University of California Press), and family and social policy (Perfectly Japanese, University of California Press). She has also published work on education and international development, women in Japan, and even two cookbooks, Noodles Galore and Cooking for Crowds (both Basic Books). In addition, her work includes essays on food and culture published in Gastronomica, (University of California Press), and in other media.

In 2012, Dr. White’s latest book, Coffee Life in Japan, was published by University of California Press. She subsequently received the Japan Society’s John E. Thayer Award, which annually recognizes significant achievements by an individual or institution in the field of U.S.-Japan relations.

Development from the “grounds” up: coffee for schools in rural Cambodia

In 2002–2003, while resident in Kyoto and conducting research on the social history of cafes in Japan, Dr. White learned of a project to build schools in devastated areas of Cambodia. When she also learned that coffee was the main crop of the area, and that it cannot be exported due to overplanting in Vietnam, she networked marketing experts with the farmers in Cambodia, and helped to start the export of Cambodian coffee to Japan. There are now eleven Japanese specialty roasting companies buying the coffee, and one in America. The blends are doing very well and the companies all donate a percentage of sales to community building. There are now about 220 elementary schools in the project and one of them, built by Richard Dyck, is named for the man who directed both Dr. White’s and Mr. Dyck’s dissertations, Ezra F. Vogel.