Mistura for the fans: performing mixed-race Japanese Brazilianness in Japan

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Women on 2015-12-14 02:16Z by Steven

Mistura for the fans: performing mixed-race Japanese Brazilianness in Japan

Journal of Intercultural Studies
Volume 36, Issue 6, 2015
pages 710-728
DOI: 10.1080/07256868.2015.1095714

Zelideth María Rivas, Assistant Professor of Japanese
Department of Modern Languages
Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia

In this article, I examine fans’ consumption of mixed-race Japanese Brazilian female bodies in Japan. The article does this by examining two case-study representations of Japanese Brazilian female bodies: Miss Nikkei in Karen Tei Yamashita’s mixed-media collection of essays and short stories, Circle K Cycles (2001); and performances by the Japanese idol group Linda Sansei (2013 debut). I argue that although the Japanese Brazilian population has largely been represented as minor characters in Japanese history, literature, and culture, the degree of consumption by fans belies this and points to the multiplicity of Japanese Brazilian identities. Moreover, the gendered, feminized body in these texts becomes a stereotyped, Orientalized, and fetishized Japanese body that is oftentimes juxtaposed to a sexualized, racialized Brazilian body. While this could distance fans and disavow the mixed-race Japanese Brazilian female body, Miss Nikkei and Linda Sansei perform gender and race in ways that demand recognition of their bodies as different to preconceived stereotypes. Fans consume the commodification of these new identitarian representations in a way that allows the mixed-race Japanese Brazilian female to attain social mobility, disavowing traditional categorizations as lower socio-economic class dekasegi, or foreign labourers.

Read or purchase the article here.

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“Japanese in the Samba”: Japanese Brazilian Musical Citizenship, Racial Consciousness, and Transnational Migration

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2013-09-15 17:41Z by Steven

“Japanese in the Samba”: Japanese Brazilian Musical Citizenship, Racial Consciousness, and Transnational Migration

University of Pittsburgh
213 pages

Shanna Lorenz, Assistant Professor of Music
Occidental College, Los Angeles, California

Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy

his doctoral dissertation is an ethnographic study of musical culture among Japanese Brazilians in São Paulo, Brazil. Specifically, the study explores how the musical culture of this community has changed in recent years as a result of the dekasegui movement, the migration of hundreds of thousands of Japanese Brazilians who have traveled to Japan since 1990 in search of work. In order to explore these questions, I conducted fieldwork between May and November of 2003 on three musical groups, Zhen Brasil, Ton Ton Mi, and Wadaiko Sho, each of which have found different ways to invoke, contest, and reinvent their Brazilian and Japanese musical heritages. By exploring these groups’ musical practices, texts, dance, costumes, and discourses of self-definition, this study offers insight into shifts in the ethnic self-definition and racial consciousness of the Japanese Brazilian community that have taken place as the result of face-to-face contact between Japanese Brazilians and Japanese under the conditions of contiguous globalization. This study contributes to our current understandings of the impact of circular forms of migration on the musical culture and ethnic identity of diasporic communities in the contemporary world.

Read the entire dissertation here.

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A Discontented Diaspora: Japanese Brazilians and the Meanings of Ethnic Militancy, 1960–1980

Posted in Asian Diaspora, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, Monographs on 2013-05-07 03:13Z by Steven

A Discontented Diaspora: Japanese Brazilians and the Meanings of Ethnic Militancy, 1960–1980

Duke University Press
256 pages
29 illus., 8 tables, 1 map
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-4081-2 
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4060-7

Jeffrey Lesser, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of History
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

In A Discontented Diaspora, Jeffrey Lesser investigates broad questions of ethnicity, the nature of diasporic identity, and Brazilian culture. He does so by exploring particular experiences of young Japanese Brazilians who came of age in São Paulo during the 1960s and 1970s, an intensely authoritarian period of military rule. The most populous city in Brazil, São Paulo was also the world’s largest “Japanese” city outside of Japan by 1960. Believing that their own regional identity should be the national one, residents of São Paulo constantly discussed the relationship between Brazilianness and Japaneseness. As second-generation Nikkei (Brazilians of Japanese descent) moved from the agricultural countryside of their immigrant parents into various urban professions, they became the “best Brazilians” in terms of their ability to modernize the country and the “worst Brazilians” because they were believed to be the least likely to fulfill the cultural dream of whitening. Lesser analyzes how Nikkei both resisted and conformed to others’ perceptions of their identity as they struggled to define and claim their own ethnicity within São Paulo during the military dictatorship.

Lesser draws on a wide range of sources, including films, oral histories, wanted posters, advertisements, newspapers, photographs, police reports, government records, and diplomatic correspondence. He focuses on two particular cultural arenas—erotic cinema and political militancy—which highlight the ways that Japanese Brazilians imagined themselves to be Brazilian. As he explains, young Nikkei were sure that their participation in these two realms would be recognized for its Brazilianness. They were mistaken. Whether joining banned political movements, training as guerrilla fighters, or acting in erotic films, the subjects of A Discontented Diaspora militantly asserted their Brazilianness only to find that doing so reinforced their minority status.

Table of Contents

  • Illustrations and Tables
  • Preface and Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • Prologue: The Limits of Flexibility
  • Introduction: The Pacific Rim in the Atlantic World
  • 1. Brazil’s Japan: Film and the Space of Ethnicity, 1960-1970
  • 2. Beautiful Bodies and (Dis)Appearing Identities: Contesting Images of Japanese-Brazilian Ethnicity, 1970-1980
  • 3. Machine Guns and Honest Faces: Japanese-Brazilian Ethnicity and Armed Struggle, 1964-1980
  • 4. Two Deaths Remembered
  • 5. How Shizuo Osawa Became Mario the Jap
  • Epilogue: Diaspora and Its Discontents
  • Notes
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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Session 408: Haafu, mixed race studies and multicultural questions in Japan

Posted in Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Live Events, Media Archive, Social Science, United States on 2011-03-12 05:53Z by Steven

Session 408: Haafu, mixed race studies and multicultural questions in Japan

AAS-ICAS Joint Conference
Association for Asian Studes (AAS)/International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS)
2011-03-31 through 2011-04-03
Hawai’i Convention Center
Honolulu, Hawaii

Session Location and Time:
Room 316C
Saturday, 2011-04-02, 07:30-09:30 HAST (Local Time)

Organizer and Chair:

Koichi Iwabuchi
Waseda University, Japan


Hsiao-Chuan Hsia
Shih Hsin University, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

Mixed race studies has developed primarily in Euro-American contexts. It productively draws attention anew to the strategic and creative negotiations/resistance against racialized marginalization by the persons concerned, while being cautious not to reproduce an underlying essentialist conception of race. This panel will examine how the issues regarding “mixed race”—as now most commonly called “haafu”(half)—are articulated in the Japanese context. While racial mixing has long been (mostly negatively) discussed in Japan, with the increase in migration and international marriage, it has recently become more visible and more positively perceived than before. With a brief introduction of the genealogy of the terms such as “konketsu” (mixed blood) and “haafu” that refer to “mixed race” in Japan, this panel will analyze through three different cases (would-be) celebrities’ strategic uses of cultural capital associated with racial mixing for self-empowerment, their reception by the public and the (im)possibilities of deconstructing an exclusive notion of “Japanese-ness”. The panel will discuss how the racialized politics of inclusion/exclusion is distinctively highlighted in Japan, how the postcolonial questions are underscored by the (non-)whiteness of haafu and how studies of haafu/mixed race enhance critical engagement with multicultural questions in Japan. This panel also aims to discuss how comparative studies of mixed race can be developed in East Asian contexts, offering new insights into mixed race studies and advancing a theoretical reconsideration of notions such as race, hybridity and national identity.

Covered Bridgings: Japanese Enka and its Mixed-Blood African American Star

Christine R. Yano, Professor of Anthropology
University of Hawaii, Manoa

Jerome Charles White (“Jero”), 28-year old mixed-blood African American from Pittsburgh, debuted in February 2008 as Japan’s first black singer of enka (nostalgized ballads most popular with older adults; characterized as expressive of the “heart/soul of Japanese”). The raised eyebrows generated by his debut stemmed not only from the fact that a mixed-blood African American male in hip-hop clothing with street dance moves was populating a Japanese music stage, but more specifically, that this was an enka stage. This paper analyzes the discursive negotiations surrounding this mixed-blood figure by the Japanese music industry and public. The racialized justification given for Jero’s legitimacy as an enka singer lies in his Japanese grandmother and her love of enka; indeed, Jero, like many African Americans, is of mixed blood. Jero’s in-betweeness enacts racial, national, cultural, and generational bridgings: simultaneously African American, Japanese, and mixed blood, he sings Japanese songs of an older generation. Indeed, Jero’s tears are painted an ambiguously tinged shade of black mixings. Armed with song, tears, and mixed-blood pedigree, Jero performs national inscriptions of displacement that crucially and ironically position him as nothing less than a prodigal grandson.

Becoming “Haafu”: Japanese Brazilian Female Migrants and Their Racialized Bodies in Japan

Tamaki Watarai
Aichi Prefectural University, Japan

For a discussion about mixed race issues in Japan, I take up Japanese Brazilian female models or those who wish to engage in this profession. Although it’s common to be a mixed race in Brazil, Japanese Brazilian women who come to Japan as return migrants realize that their being “mestiça”, which means mixed race female in Portuguese, now can be valorized as “haafu” in the Japanese printed media. Here I would like to address the following questions: To be successful as “haafu” models, how do Japanese Brazilian women perform, appreciate or contest this racialized image? Are there any differences between being haafu and being mestiça? In the end, what does “haafu” mean to Japanese Brazilians, especially in terms of their transnational lives? By analyzing interviews with the models and modeling agencies and observations of beauty pageants in Brazilian community, I will discuss the complexity and uniqueness of the conception of “haafu”.

Mixed Race Oiran?: A Critical Analysis of Discourses of (Non-) Japaneseness

Sayuri Arai
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Based on a popular manga, and with the twist of a focus on the contemporary world of girls, combined with psychedelic colors, a Japanese film, Sakuran (2007), directed by Mika Ninagawa, depicts the lives of oiran [Japanese prostitutes] in the Edo era (1600-1867). The protagonist, an oiran named Kiyoha, is played by white-Japanese, mixed race actor, Anna Tsuchiya. The casting of Tsuchiya as a “Japanese” oiran was controversial, because by putting a mixed race actor in the role, the film challenges the dominant notion of Japaneseness in Japan. By conceptualizing the theoretical concepts of Japaneseness, whiteness, and haafu [mixed race Japanese people] within a Japanese context, this essay explores the discourses of Japaneseness as they circulate and relate to the mixed race actor cast as an oiran in the film. By analyzing the Internet posts on one of the largest film review websites, this study aims to understand and critique the ways in which discourses of (non-) Japaneseness are narrated contemporarily, as well as explore the ways in which Japanese identities are negotiated and constructed within popular discourses.

For more information, click here.

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