Embodying Belonging

Embodying Belonging: Racializing Okinawan Diaspora in Bolivia and Japan

Taku Suzuki
Copyright Date: 2010
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wqxfx
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  • Book Info
    Embodying Belonging
    Book Description:

    Embodying Belonging is the first full-length study of a Okinawan diasporic community in South America and Japan. Under extraordinary conditions throughout the twentieth century (Imperial Japanese rule, the brutal Battle of Okinawa at the end of World War II, U.S. military occupation), Okinawans left their homeland and created various diasporic communities around the world. Colonia Okinawa, a farming settlement in the tropical plains of eastern Bolivia, is one such community that was established in the 1950s under the guidance of the U.S. military administration. Although they have flourished as farm owners in Bolivia, thanks to generous support from the Japanese government since Okinawa’s reversion to Japan in 1972, hundreds of Bolivian-born ethnic Okinawans have left the Colonia in the last two decades and moved to Japanese cities, such as Yokohama, to become manual laborers in construction and manufacturing industries. Based on the author’s multisited field research on the work, education, and community lives of Okinawans in the Colonia and Yokohama, this ethnography challenges the unidirectional model of assimilation and acculturation commonly found in immigration studies. In its vivid depiction of the transnational experiences of Okinawan-Bolivians, it argues that transnational Okinawan-Bolivians underwent the various racialization processes—in which they were portrayed by non-Okinawan Bolivians living in the Colonia and native-born Japanese mainlanders in Yokohama and self-represented by Okinawan-Bolivians themselves—as the physical embodiment of a generalized and naturalized "culture" of Japan, Okinawa, or Bolivia. Racializing narratives and performances ideologically serve as both a cause and result of Okinawan-Bolivians’ social and economic status as successful large-scale farm owners in rural Bolivia and struggling manual laborers in urban Japan. As the most comprehensive work available on Okinawan immigrants in Latin America and ethnic Okinawan "return" migrants in Japan, Embodying Belonging is at once a critical examination of the contradictory class and cultural identity (trans)formations of transmigrants; a rich qualitative study of colonial and postcolonial subjects in diaspora, and a bold attempt to theorize racialization as a social process of belonging within local and global schemes.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6054-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: RACIALIZING CULTURE AND CLASS IN A TRANSNATIONAL FIELD
    (pp. 1-21)

    As I got out of a taxi with my dusty backpack and suitcase at thecentro(village center) of Colonia Okinawa, a farming settlement founded by Okinawan immigrants in the Santa Cruz Prefecture of eastern Bolivia, I immediately recognized two different types of gaze cast on me. The first was from taxi drivers who were congregating at theparada, or taxi stop, and street vendors who were selling snacks and drinks to those waiting for rides. Their stare with reserved curiosity seemed to have deciphered my nationality.Otro japonés ha llegado—another Japanese has arrived. The second was from those...

  5. 1 MODERN OKINAWAN TRANSNATIONALITY: COLONIALISM, DIASPORA, AND “RETURN”
    (pp. 22-53)

    During my research in Colonia Okinawa, I repeatedly heard a popular anecdote from Okinawan-Bolivian returnees from Japan after several years ofdekasegi. The anecdote went like this: Growing up, they spoke only Japanese with their parents and friends in Colonia Okinawa. When they decided to go to work in Japan for the first time, therefore, they were very confident that they could easily “pass” as Japanese, because the Okinawan-Bolivians spoke their language fluently, looked the same as Japanese, and possessed a Japanese passport. When the Okinawan-Bolivians landed at New Tokyo International Airport and reached the immigration counter, however, they were...

  6. 2 THE MAKING OF PATRONES JAPONESAS AND DEKASEGI MIGRANTS
    (pp. 54-82)

    The first thing I noticed when I arrived in Colonia Okinawa from the nearby city of Montero was that the village had nothing that particularly reminded me of the Ryūkyū Islands or Japan. Except for a steel arch that says “Okinawa Nihon Boribia Kyōkai: Asociación Boliviana-Japonesa de Okinawa” at the entrance to the Nichibo Kyōkai building, it was difficult to find anything that distinguished Colonia Okinawa from other villages in rural Santa Cruz. What I did notice immediately upon my arrival, however, was the obvious contrast between the houses with white-painted walls and orangetiled roofs and the small wooden houses...

  7. 3 FROM PATRÓN TO NIKKEI-JIN RŌDŌSHA: CLASS TRANSFORMATIONS
    (pp. 83-112)

    Many young Nisei moved from Colonia Okinawa to urban Japan after realizing that it was extremely difficult to achieve economic success on their own outside the insular environment of Colonia Okinawa. They needed to accumulate cash quickly in order to launch their own farming operations in (or near) Colonia Okinawa.¹ Once they had moved to urban Japan, such as to the Tsurumi Ward in Yokohama, Nisei found jobs in the manufacturing and construction industries. The majority of Okinawan-Bolivians in Tsurumi lived and ran their businesses in the Nakadōri and Ushioda neighborhoods; one study in 1998 counted twenty-one small businesses in...

  8. 4 EDUCATING “GOOD” NIKKEI AND OKINAWAN SUBJECTS
    (pp. 113-145)

    While I was a volunteer Japanese language teacher at Okinawa Uno Japanese-Bolivian School (Colegio Particular Mixto Centro Boliviano Japones Okinawa Numero Uno, Numero Uno hereafter) in Colonia Uno and the Nueva Esperanza School (Colegio Mixto “Nueva Esperanza,” Nueva Esperanza hereafter) in Colonia Dos during my fieldwork, I was impressed by the number of hours the Okinawan-Bolivian Nisei and Sansei children spent studying the Japanese language, practicing Okinawan dance, such as Eisā, and preparing for community festivals and events. These classes were not part of the national curriculum, and these extracurricular activities would not necessarily be useful for students’ success in...

  9. 5 GENDERING TRANSNATIONALITY: MARRIAGE, FAMILY, AND DEKASEGI
    (pp. 146-182)

    After having heard from Okinawan-Bolivians in Colonia Okinawa thatdekasegimigration was a common phenomenon among young and middle-aged Nisei men, I initially sought to interview Nisei and younger Issei men in Colonia Okinawa who had returned fromdekasegiin Japan. More often than not, however, when my interviewees had a hard time remembering the details of theirdekasegiexperience, their wives, who had been eavesdropping on our conversations, chimed in and eventually replaced their husbands in answering my questions. Though Nisei women were generally reluctant to be interviewed by me, a male outsider, outside the presence of their husbands,...

  10. CONCLUSION: EMBODIMENT OF LOCAL BELONGING
    (pp. 183-190)

    By portraying various situations faced by Okinawan-Bolivians at workplaces, homes, and schools in Colonia Okinawa and urban Japan, I have attempted to highlight the fluid and situational senses of belonging they experienced in the places they lived and worked. It is tempting to explain away their sense of entitlement in Colonia Okinawa and of disenfranchisement in urban Japan, as well as in the larger Bolivian society, as either a matter of “cultural” adjustment and maladjustment, or an implication of their higher and lower class statuses in these locations. Okinawan-Bolivians’ complicated subject positions as an ethnic minority group in Bolivia and...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 191-214)
  12. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 215-218)
  13. REFERENCES
    (pp. 219-244)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 245-256)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-262)