井の中の蛙

6/29/2007

Japanese Diaspora at ASPAC

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 1:33 am

As I mentioned here and here, I had some great discussions about the question of diaspora at ASPAC. The dividing line between Asian studies and Asian American studies is starting to blur, and I think that’s going to be very productive.

That was actually one of the main points of Jane H. Yamashiro’s lively talk on “The Japanese Diaspora?: Rethinking connections between people of Japanese ancestry”: that disciplinary boundary-crossing is productive, but that the very different origins, political and disciplinary stances of Asian Studies and Asian American Studies raise problems. Fundamentally, each views the question from a very different place, with a center of focus that affects the kind of issues which are possible to study and discuss. One example of the problem is in terminology: are people of Japanese ancestry who go to Japan “return migrants” or “foreigners” or “going to the homeland”? This is precisely what Yamashiro studies: the experience of Japanese Americans constructing a new identity as they live long-term in Japan, but the very naming of such an experience prefigures some of the answer: how can a first-time visit be a “return” unless identity is more ancestral than individual? And she explicitly rejects the term “diaspora” because, she argues, it fixes the center of the Japanese American experience in Japan instead of in America.

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