Academic Papers Creative Writing Hoang Thanh Tu

A Parallel World

“A Parallel World” is an ethnographically inspired fiction on overwork depression under the “work of culture.” The paper tells the narratives of Takahashi and Michael who live on different parts of the earth, yet facing the same problematic reality.

Written by Hoang Thanh Tu

Takahashi had always been a model worker – the contributions to his company were always highly appreciated. If he might say so himself, he took perfect responsibility for the projects assigned, had only been late to work once due to objective reasons, and received praise from his colleagues on a daily basis. (Kitanaka, 2012)

But, one may wonder, what had he sacrificed for these work ethics?

His whole personal, private life.


Michael opens up his eyes after an intermittent sleep – his over-enthusiastic brain doesn’t let him rest any longer. He woke up, feeling every inch of his body, from head to toe, filled with butterflies.

I’m contributing to this endless process of entrepreneurship. This is my dream job. This is where I belong.

Ding! The elevator door slid open, flocks of start-up worker bees fly out, murmuring to each other: Thank God it’s Monday.

He jumped outside enthusiastically, although feeling a little dizzy due to lack of nutrition – but no worries, it’s his body that is unhealthy, not his mentality. He hadn’t been sleeping properly for three days; and who knows the last time he didn’t have only an energy drink for lunch?


Griffifth, Erin. Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work? The New York Times, Jan 2019. Retrievable at

Jadhav, Sushrut. The Cultural Origins of Western Depression.  International Journal of Social Psychiatry, Volume 42, 269-286, Special issue, 1995.

Kitanaka, Junko. Depression in Japan: Psychiatric Cures for a Society in Distress. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012.

Martin, Emily. Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture. Princeton (N.J.): Princeton University Press, 2009.

Morgan, Jacob. Is The Hustle Culture and Mentality Out Of Control? Forbes, Feb 2016. Retrievable at

Targum, Steven D and Junko Kitanaka. Overwork Suicide in Japan: A National Crisis. Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience vol. 9,2 (2012): 35-8.


This paper was originally written as a term paper for DCUL419 Anthropology of the Self and then was edited by the Discovery Polyphony Editors.

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