Growing up in the United States, Japanese Americans learn to understand their Japanese heritage within US-based narratives of racism, cultural exclusion, and multiculturalism. What happens when they move to Japan, where the discourse of Japanese homogeneity and uniqueness shapes what it means to be “Japanese”? What difficulties related to phenotype and language do Japanese American migrants encounter in their daily interactions as they attempt to make themselves understandable in Japan? Redefining Japaneseness: Japanese Americans in the Ancestral Homeland (Rutgers University Press, 2017), chronicles how Japanese Americans’ understandings of Japaneseness – including their own – transform while living in Japan. Drawing from extensive fieldwork and interviews, Jane H. Yamashiro reveals the diverse processes and shifting strategies that Japanese American migrants in the Tokyo area utilize as they negotiate and challenge conventional social boundaries and meanings related to race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality. By reframing the relationship between Japanese Americans and Japan, Redefining Japaneseness critically interrogates common assumptions about diasporic identification and ancestral homeland migration.
In this book talk, the author will discuss key research findings as well as implications of the findings for the study of Japanese society. Some of these points include the impact of “the hierarchy of foreignness” in Japanese society on Japanese American experiences, differences in how Japanese Americans from Hawaii and the US continent reconstruct identities in Japan, and how expectations about social acceptance in Japan can shift over time. This talk offers an opportunity for the critical reexamination of how Japaneseness is constructed in Japan around a Japanese/foreigner dichotomy.
More about Redefining Japaneseness: Japanese Americans in the Ancestral Homeland is available at the book’s website: https://redefiningjapaneseness.com
Jane H. Yamashiro is a sociologist whose comparative and transnational work on race and ethnicity, culture, globalization, migration, diaspora, and identity sits at the intersection of Asian American and Asian Studies. She has previously been based at USC’s Center for Japanese Religions and Culture and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. She holds a B.A. from the University of California at San Diego and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. While conducting research in Japan, Dr. Yamashiro has been funded by the East-West Center and the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship, and has been a visiting researcher at the University of Tokyo and Sophia University. Her research has been published in academic journals such as Sociology Compass; Ethnic and Racial Studies; and AAPI Nexus: Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders Policy, Practice and Community. For more information, please see her CV at https://independent.academia.edu/JaneHYamashiro/CurriculumVitae.