Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Strangers in the Ethnic Homeland

Strangers in the Ethnic Homeland: Japanese Brazilian Return Migration in Transnational Perspective

Takeyuki Tsuda
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 432
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Strangers in the Ethnic Homeland
    Book Description:

    Since the late 1980s, Brazilians of Japanese descent have been "return" migrating to Japan as unskilled foreign workers. With an immigrant population currently estimated at roughly 280,000, Japanese Brazilians are now the second largest group of foreigners in Japan. Although they are of Japanese descent, most were born in Brazil and are culturally Brazilian. As a result, they have become Japan's newest ethnic minority.

    Drawing upon close to two years of multisite fieldwork in Brazil and Japan, Takeyuki Tsuda has written a comprehensive ethnography that examines the ethnic experiences and reactions of both Japanese Brazilian immigrants and their native Japanese hosts. In response to their socioeconomic marginalization in their ethnic homeland, Japanese Brazilians have strengthened their Brazilian nationalist sentiments despite becoming members of an increasingly well-integrated transnational migrant community. Although such migrant nationalism enables them to resist assimilationist Japanese cultural pressures, its challenge to Japanese ethnic attitudes and ethnonational identity remains inherently contradictory. Strangers in the Ethnic Homeland illuminates how cultural encounters caused by transnational migration can reinforce local ethnic identities and nationalist discourses.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50234-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface: The Japenese Brazilians as Immigrant Celebrities
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  5. Introduction Ethnicity and the Anthropologist: Negotiating Identities in the Field
    (pp. 1-52)

    It was an autumn day in September when I stepped off the train into the scorching heat after a three-hour trip from central Tokyo to Ota city in Gunma Prefecture. I had arrived in Japan just four days earlier to start phase 2 of my fieldwork after close to nine months in Brazil. As I walked out onto the station platform, I looked up at the imposing structure of the shopping center that towered over the station, which brought back fleeting memories of those grand, indoor shopping centers in Brazil (os shoppings). In fact, “the shopping” in Brazil had become...


    • Chapter 1 When Minorities Migrate The Japanese Brazilians as Positive Minorities in Brazil and Their Return Migration to Japan
      (pp. 55-102)

      A complete and comprehensive ethnography of transnational processes requires multisited fieldwork (Marcus 1995; cf. Clifford 1992) in the various countries involved. In the case of transnational migrants, fieldwork must ideally be conducted in both the sending and the receiving country in order to understand the influence of migration on their ethnicity and identity and analyze the transnational linkages between the two countries that frame their experiences. Moreover, it is impossible to fully understand the ethnic status and identity of migrants in the host society without first understanding their prior status and identity in their home country, since their sociocultural experiences...

    • Chapter 2 From Positive to Negative Minority Ethnic Prejudice and “Discrimination” Toward the Japanese Brazilians in Japan
      (pp. 103-152)

      When migrants relocate to a new society, they usually acquire a completely different ethnic status. Those who were part of the majority society back home find that they have become an immigrant minority in the host country. However, even for those who were already ethnic minorities in their countries of origin, migration entails a significant change in ethnic status from one type of minority to another.

      This is true even for ethnic return migrants. Although they are considered ethnic minorities in the countries where they reside because of their foreign origins, when they migrate “back” to their ancestral homelands, they...


    • Chapter 3 Migration and Deterritorialized Nationalism The Ethnic Encounter with the Japanese and the Development of a Minority Counteridentity
      (pp. 155-220)

      The dramatic change from positive to negative minority status that the Japanese Brazilians experience when they migrate to Japan is accompanied by an equally significant transformation in their ethnic consciousness. As members of a negative immigrant minority, they confront considerable ethnic exclusion, socioeconomic marginalization, cultural difference, and “discrimination” in Japan. In response to such negative experiences, many of them distance themselves from their previous transnational ethnic affiliation with the Japanese and assert a much stronger Brazilian counteridentity in opposition to Japanese society. This nationalization of ethnic identity among nikkeijin return migrants in Japan has been noted by various other researchers...

    • Chapter 4 Transnational Communities Without a Consciousness? Transnational Connections, National Identities, and the Nation-State
      (pp. 221-260)

      The impact of migration on individual self-identity is undoubtedly complex and varied. According to Arjun Appadurai,

      As populations become deterritorialized … the results are surely contradictory. Displacement and exile, migration and terror create powerful attachments to ideas of homeland that seem more deeply territorial than ever. But it is also possible to detect in many of these transnations … the elements of a postnational imaginary.(1996:176–77)

      Needless to say, my analysis has focused on the former consequence of migration. In certain cases, migration undoubtedly makes transnational identities and “postnational imaginaries” possible. However,the Japanese Brazilian experience indicates that we cannot always...


    • Chapter 5 The Performance of Brazilian Counteridentities Ethnic Resistance and the Japanese Nation-State
      (pp. 263-322)

      Ethnic identity as a form of self-consciousness is not simply a matter of internal experience but is actively displayed, demonstrated, and enacted in practice. In turn, such practices can either consolidate existing hegemonies or generate resistance to the dominant order (Comaroff 1985:5–6). Although the concept of hegemony is associated with Marxist social theory, Raymond Williams (building on Gramsci) expands it beyond ideological class domination to include relations between various types of dominant and subordinate cultural formations (including ethnic ones) that span the whole range of “lived experience” (see 1977:108–12). It is worth quoting him at length:

      [Hegemonic] forms...

    • Chapter 6 “Assimilation Blues” Problems Among Assimilation-Oriented Japanese Brazilians
      (pp. 323-354)

      The human desire for ethnic recognition sometimes involves not the display of cultural differences, but their downplay. Ethnic groups can also adapt to their minority status by seeking recognition of their ethnic unrecognizability. In contrast to the majority of Japanese Brazilians, who have insisted on asserting their Brazilian counteridentities as an act of ethnic resistance, a smaller number of individuals take a different approach and attempt a more assimilative type of ethnic adaptation by deemphasizing their cultural differences. In this manner, not only do individual Brazilian nikkeijin engage in ethnic resistance at different levels of intensity, some participate in it...

  9. Conclusion Ethnic Encounters in the Global Ecumene
    (pp. 355-376)

    When migrants and their hosts are related through common descent, ethnic identity becomes increasingly salient as a factor that both motivates migration and constitutes the experience of the migrants. This introduces new complexities and paradoxes to the usual dislocations and discontinuities of migration. Indeed, the experiences of the Japanese Brazilians as well as the Japanese in the host society are shot through with numerous ironies, contradictions, and disjunctures.

    The return migration of the nikkeijin means that a minority that was ethnically distinguished in Brazil because it was so “Japanese” is disparaged in Japan because it is so “Brazilian.” Although the...

  10. Epilogue Caste or Assimilation? The Future Minority Status and Ethnic Adaptation of the Japanese Brazilians in Japan
    (pp. 377-396)

    The issues of migration and ethnicity outlined in this book will continue to be relevant for the future as the Japanese Brazilians become a permanent immigrant minority in Japan. Like Brazilian immigrants in the United States and Canada (Goza 1994:149, 1999:777; Margolis 1994:chapter 12), a good number of them will remain sojourners and “target earners” who will return in the near future to Brazil, but a sizable portion of the immigrant population is settling long-term and permanently in Japan. Although virtually all of the Japanese Brazilians arrive in Japan as temporary dekasegi sojourners and plan to return to Brazil in...

  11. References
    (pp. 397-422)
  12. Index
    (pp. 423-432)