When the diaspora returns : Transnational racial and ethnic identity formation among Japanese Americans in global Tokyo

Yamashiro, Jane Hisa
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 2008.
Japanese American migration to Japan is a specific type of transnational movement: that of an ethnic group to its ancestral homeland. As a framework for comparatively discussing multiple constructions of Japaneseness in the United States and Japan, to flesh out the complexities of Japanese American "ethnic return" experiences in Japan, I theorize "Japanese" as what I call a heterogeneous global ethnic group---an ethnic group that spans national borders and is internally diverse. This concept is similar to the notion of diaspora in some ways but can enable a discussion of Japanese American migration to Japan that diaspora cannot.
This dissertation examines how Japanese Americans reconstruct their racial and ethnic identities through migration to Japan. Using a transnational framework, I show how identity constructions in Japan emerge from a combination of new experiences interacting with people in Japan, and past experiences in the United States that continue to shape self-perceptions. I use the case of Japanese Americans in Japan to reconsider how the concepts of race and ethnicity can be used to develop a comparative framework for discussing global constructions of race and ethnicity. My findings are based on three years of ethnographic fieldwork in Japan, including 50 qualitative interviews with Japanese Americans living in the Tokyo area.
Three types of identity formations among Americans of Japanese ancestry in Japan can be discerned. First, Japanese Americans from the U.S. continent who can phenotypically blend into Japanese society tend to reconstruct what I term "racialized national identities" as "Japanese Americans" in Japan. Second, ethnic Japanese from Hawai'i reconstruct "Hawai'i" identities while in Japan. Finally, mixed race Japanese Americans must grapple with the category of "hafu," which is gaining increasing social recognition in Japan.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves xxx-xxx).
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281 leaves, bound 29 cm
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