Searching for Home Abroad

Japanese Brazilians and Transnationalism

Searching for Home Abroad

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: 7 figures Published: September 2003

Asian Studies > East Asia, Latin American Studies > Brazil, Theory and Philosophy > Race and Indigeneity

During the first half of the twentieth century, Japanese immigrants entered Brazil by the tens of thousands. In more recent decades that flow has been reversed: more than 200,000 Japanese-Brazilians and their families have relocated to Japan. Examining these significant but rarely studied transnational movements and the experiences of Japanese-Brazilians, the essays in Searching for Home Abroad rethink complex issues of ethnicity and national identity. The contributors—who represent a number of nationalities and disciplines themselves—analyze how the original Japanese immigrants, their descendants in Brazil, and the Japanese-Brazilians in Japan sought to fit into the culture of each country while confronting both prejudice and discrimination.

The concepts of home and diaspora are engaged and debated throughout the volume. Drawing on numerous sources—oral histories, interviews, private papers, films, myths, and music—the contributors highlight the role ethnic minorities have played in constructing Brazilian and Japanese national identities. The essayists consider the economic and emotional motivations for migration as well as a range of fascinating cultural outgrowths such as Japanese secret societies in Brazil. They explore intriguing paradoxes, including the feeling among many Japanese-Brazilians who have migrated to Japan that they are more "Brazilian" there than they were in Brazil. Searching for Home Abroad will be of great interest to scholars of immigration and ethnicity in the Americas and Asia.

Contributors. Shuhei Hosokawa, Angelo Ishi, Jeffrey Lesser, Daniel T. Linger, Koichi Mori, Joshua Hotaka Roth, Takeyuki (Gaku) Tsuda, Keiko Yamanaka, Karen Tei Yamashita


Searching for Home Abroad is a valuable addition to the growing literature of the Japanese and Japanese descendents in Latin American, Asian immigrations to the Americas and Asian diasporas, transnationalism, and identity formation, and it makes an important contribution to the field of immigration and ethnic history.” — Meiko Nishida , Luso-Brazilian Review

"Searching for Home Abroad is valuable for its contributions to the study of ethnic identity and notions of home in the context of transnationalism, globalization, and diaspora, but also specifically to the understanding of Japanese Brazilian migration. Much of the strength of this edited volume lies in the various scholarly perspectives of its contributors." — Michell J. Moran-Taylor, Latin American Politics and Society

"[A] fascinating collection of essays on diverse aspects of the Japanese migration to Brazil in the early 20th century and the recent flows of Japanese Brazilians who relocated to Japan. . . . [A] well-grounded and engaging reading for scholars from various disciplines and migration-related practitioners alike." — Ana Margheritis , The Latin Americanist

"[A] very interesting, informative, analytical, provocative and readable book." — Antonio Sérgio Alfredo Guimarães , Journal of Latin American Studies

"[N]ot just essential reading for students and scholars of Nikkei (people of Japanese descent) issues; [this book] is also an instructive primer on the contingency of ethnic identity." — Robert Efird, Pacific Affairs

"[S]hed[s] new light on this specific minority group as well as raise[s] some tough questions about transnationalism and ethnic-identity formation in general."
— Brian Masaru Hayashi, Journal of Asian Studies

"[T]he book is worth reading on at least two counts. First, the case of Japanese Brazilian migrant workers is of exceptional interest if only because it would seem literally to be exceptional: how many other immigrant communities have emigrated in such large numbers to their nominal homeland? Also, for scholars of Japan, it may be useful to understand the Japanese Brazilian community in Japan; it has established its own institutions and may well become a long-term feature of the Japanese cultural landscape."
— Stewart Lone, Asian Studies Review

"A major strength is the empirical grounding of much of the research in fieldwork conducted in Japan and Brazil, a dimension that always adds to social analysis." — Daniela de Carvalho, Journal of Japanese Studies

"I highly recommend Searching for Home Abroad for scholars and students of anthropology, history, and ethnic studies, as well as for all those interested in transnational migration and globalization." — Nobuko Adachi, History: Reviews of New Books

"Overall, the essays collected in this volume offer suggestive insights on the convoluted and unique century old Japanese-Brazilian transnational formation. For the most part, the different contributions offer highly accessible reading for graduate and advanced undergraduate students in Asian, Latin American and migration studies." — Gerardo Renique , Bulletin of Latin American Research

“Jeffrey Lesser’s achievement is that he and his colleagues have assembled the most comprehensive, multi-dimensional portrayal to date of the Japanese in Brazil as well as Brazilians of Japanese descent who have gone to work temporarily in Japan. Their research deftly illustrates how the multiple identities of immigrants and their descendants, as well as transnational labor migrants, can generate a plethora of responses as to where and what their real home actually is. As such, this book makes a seminal contribution to Asian, Latin American, and migration studies.” — Lane Ryo Hirabayashi, University of California, Riverside

"Searching for Home Abroad makes a major contribution to Brazilian studies and to our empirical and theoretical understanding of transnational migration, liminality, and the construction of transnational identities. Its contributors—from history, sociology, anthropology, and ethnomusicology—provide us with a rich, nuanced, and very much needed understanding of early-twentieth-century Japanese immigration in Brazil, as well as the more recent Japanese-Brazilian emigration to Japan." — Leo Spitzer, author of Hotel Bolivia: The Culture of Memory in a Refuge from Nazism


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jeffrey Lesser is Professor of History and Director of the Program in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Emory University. He is the author, most recently, of Negotiating National Identity: Immigrants, Minorities, and the Struggle for Ethnicity in Brazil, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Glossary xi

Introduction: Looking for Home in All the Wrong Places / Jeffrey Lesser 1

Japanese, Brazilians, Nikkei: A Short History of Identity Building and Homemaking / Jeffrey Lesser 5

Speaking in the Tongue of Antipode: Japanese Brazilian Fantasy on the Origin of Language / Shuhei Hosokawa 21

Identity Transformations among Okinawans and Their Descendants in Brazil / Koichi Mori 47

Interlude: Circle K Rules / Karen Tei Yamashita 67

Searching for Home, Wealth, Pride, and "Class": Japanese Brazilians in the "Land of Yen" / Angelo Ishi 75

Urashima Taro's Ambiguating Practices: The Significance of Overseas Voting Rights for Elderly Japanese Migrants to Brazil / Joshua Hotaka Roth 103

Homeland-less Abroad: Transnational Liminality, Social Alienation, and Personal Malaise / Takeyuki (Gaku) Tsuda 121

Feminization of Japanese Brazilian Labor Migration to Japan / Keiko Yamanaka 163

Do Japanese Brazilians Exist? / Daniel T. Linger 201

Contributors 215

Index 217
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3148-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3112-4
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