This article explores the agency of animal materiality, class, and context in shaping social values within wood research and manufacturing communities in mid-twentieth-century Japan, with a focus on animal glues (nikawa 膠) in relation to other adhesives. It relates the materiality and affordances of adhesives to their value within multiple technosocial contexts, in which glues made from mammalian skin, bones, and hooves remained the predominant adhesive within wood product manufacturing microenterprises but were being replaced by casein-, soybean-, and carbon-based adhesives in academic and corporate laboratories. Working primarily from research reports and consultation records compiled by industrial research institutes embedded within small-scale manufacturing communities, the article proposes that the materiality of animal glues and the larger assemblage of materials-energy-environment-tools-skill-knowledge present in, between, and around labs and workshops both rendered that materiality highly evident to human users and prompted them to value nikawa in highly divergent ways, depending on class and context. The affordances of animal-based glues, alongside those of plant- and carbon-based glues and other substances used with them in manufacturing, led different social groups to value them differently. The result was a bifurcation of value between adjacent but separate social groups, with workshop owners preferring to use animal glues, even as technical advisors labored to dissolve small workshop owners’ attachment or adherence to animal glues, and to prompt them to adopt newer, more “modern” adhesives as part of industrial rationalization and modernization. This paper is part of a special issue entitled “Making Animal Materials in Time,” edited by Laurence Douny and Lisa Onaga.

You do not currently have access to this content.