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Emotional costs of providing social support to political prisoners

This paper examines the emotional costs of providing social support to political prisoners in Japan, using Hochschild’s emotion work theory. It examines two different sets of social interactions within a broader symbolic interactionist analysis of sequential interactions between the social movement and state forces of social control, using data from a long-term field study. First, the relation of potential supporters with their broader social milieu may reinforce the commitment to provide social support as a political act, alter the commitment of those with other motivations, or deter a parent from maintaining any relationship at all with an imprisoned child. Second, the emotional dynamic of the relationship of supporters with prisoners changes over time. Because of the severe isolation of the prisoners, the loyal supporter may eventually become the target of the prisoner’s frustration and anger. Supporters may suffer from caregiver burnout and withdraw from the relationship. Conversely, continuing unconditional support from someone who listens without judging may enable the prisoner to entertain doubts and disengage from the movement.


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Contemporary Japan


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