Jack (John) Traphagan

Jack (John) W. Traphagan, Ph.D., '83

Adjunct Faculty, Chair - FAHSS Advisory Board

Fine Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
Political Science, Global Studies


Political Anthropology, Medical Anthropology, Anthropology of Science, Religion and Politics

Research Interests

  • Japanese Politics and Society, East Asia, Demography,
  • Culture and Politics of Medicine,
  • Culture and Politics of Science
  • Culture and Ethics
  • Religion and Politics


  • PhD, Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh
  • MAR, Social Ethics, Yale University
  • BA, Political Science, University of Massachusetts Lowell


J. W. Traphagan is a social anthropologist with research interests in Japanese rural life, population aging, medical anthropology, and the anthropology of science. He has published widely in academic journals and has written several books, including a murder mystery situated in rural Japan. Traphagan's work has appeared in many journals, including Space Policy, Ethnology, Asian Anthropology, Research on Aging, and Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders. He also writes regularly for outlets such as The Daily Beast, Supercluster, The Conversation. The Diplomat, and The National Interest. Traphagan's work has been translated into several languages, including German, Russian, and Ukrainian.

Selected Awards and Honors

  • Fulbright Doctoral Research Scholarship (Japan), 1995
  • Boren National Security Education Program Area and Language Studies Doctoral Fellowship, 1994
  • National Institute on Aging Postdoctoral Fellow, Population Studies Center, University of Michigan, 1997-1999
  • Elected Full Member, Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society, 2021
  • Donahue Lecture, University of Massachusetts Lowell, 2022

Selected Publications

  • Traphagan, John W. 2024. Space Expansion and Politico-Religious Ideology: A Consideration of Civil Religion and the Future of Space Exploration. Theology and Science.
  • Jonathan H. Jiang, Anamaria Berea, Heather Bowden, Prithwis Das, Kristen A. Fahy, Robert Jew, Xiaoming Jiang, Arik Kershenbaum, David Kipping, Graham Lau, Karen Lewis, Philip E. Rosen, Nick Searra, Stuart F. Taylor, John Traphagan. 2023. Message in a Bottle: An Update to the Golden Record. Earth and Space Science.
  • Traphagan, John W. 2023. The W&T Realpolitik Scenario and Contact with ETI: A Reply to Wright, et al. Space Policy.
  • Traphagan, John W. 2021. Should We Lie to Extraterrestrials? A Critique of the Voyager Golden Records. Space Policy 57.
  • He, Lauren and John W. Traphagan. 2021. A preliminary exploration of attitudes about COVID-19 among a group of older people in Iwate Prefecture, Japan. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology. 36:1-19. doi: 10.1007/s10823-021-09423-1
  • Wisian, Ken and John W. Traphagan. 2020. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence: A Realpolitik Consideration. Space Policy 52.
  • Traphagan, John W. 2020. Cosmopolitan Rurality, Depopulation, and Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in 21st Century Japan. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press.
  • Traphagan, John W. 2016. Culture, Science, and the Search for Life on Other Worlds. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
  • Traphagan, John W. 2013. Rethinking Autonomy: A Critique of Principlism in Biomedical Ethics. Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • Traphagan, John W. 2004. The Practice of Concern: Ritual, Well-Being, and Aging in Rural Japan. Durham: Carolina Academic Press.
  • Traphagan, John W. 2000. Taming Oblivion: Aging Bodies and the Fear of Senility in Japan. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Research Currently in Progress

My current research is focused on religious and political ideology related to space exploration in Japan