Staff and Advisors
FOCUS GROUP #1
"CULTURE-BUILDING: COMMUNITY & IDENTITY"
The Nikkei community is the primary focus of this category which seeks to identify the transformative processes involved from "being Japanese" to "becoming Nikkei." The concept of "culture-building" is significant to our inquiry for it refers to a process wherein ethnic groups--Nikkei in this instance, legitimize and enfranchise their communities and styles of life within the national contexts in which they reside. In the "culture-building process," the Nikkei are constantly evolving through interrelations in the contexts of their settings as self-conscious, active creators of their own identities and communities.
Primary Language spoken: Spanish
Facilitator: Lane R. Hirabayashi
Discussants: Doris Moromisato Miasato (Thursday, June 24)
EMI KASAMATSU (Friday, June 25)
Recorder: Allyson Nakamoto (Vounteer) June 24, Maria Teruya (Volunteer) June 25
Facilitators Report by Lane R. Hirabayashi
The first part of Raul Araki's paper presented a very extensive oral history of a first generation Japanese Peruvian gentleman.
Participants repeatedly emphasized that they liked the qualitative detail and nuances that Raul was clearly able to capture. The second part presented a series of "popular images of the Nikkei in Peru" that were
collected by Raul and by a non-Nikkei colleague. Although not a random sample, per se, the team attempted to talk to both Nikkei and non-Nikkei from many different sectors of Peruvian society. The key conceptual issue that Raul is focusing on is: what explains the vast discrepancy between image/ideology, on one hand, and phenomenological realities as experienced by the individual?
In her paper, Doris Morimisato highlights gender, and how masculinity and femininity are constructed by Peruvian Nikkei. Her study has a number of different levels of analysis, including both the symbolic and the political. In this sense, Doris is interested in how gender plays out in the public and private sectors of Nikkei Peruvian life. At this juncture, Doris has found that Nikkei women feel that the Nikkei community
organizations impede their personal and professional aspirations. This leads to one of her key research questions: "Is rejection of Nikkei culture a matter of integration into the larger Peruvian society, or is it a matter of rejection of the Nikkei community?
Marcelo Higa presented his paper which revolved around an extended history of the "dekasegui" phenomenon in Argentina. Beyond this, Higa emphasized a point that he has been making during various junctures of the INRP conference: namely that the "Nikkei" concept is at once a convenient tool for comparative discourse and study, yet at the same time we need to take care that it doesn't blind us to intra-group variation, and the real differences between specific countries from whence Nikkei originate.
Subsequently, Maria Elena Ota presented her research questionnaire and explained (1) how she was going about distributing it; and (2) how difficult this had been, at a number of different levels. Her questionnaire will be distributed to Nikkei throughout Mexico, and covers basic biographical data, including educational levels, career directions, and internal migratory patterns. Maria Elena's overall emphasis has to do with how Nikkei position themselves, as persons of Japanese descent, and as Mexicans.
We moved to Emi Kasamatsu's manuscript. Basically, Emi's paper is practical and applied. She outlined the tremendous crisis and corruption in the polity of Paraguay. Her response is to ask how young Nikkei can be trained to be a new generation of political leadership for the country, in the effort to bring a new commitment and a new standard of conduct to governing and government. Emi also asks how the traditional virtues of Japanese culture and heritage, can be deployed in Paraguay in order to facilitate a new period of "effective socio-economic development."
Lane Hirabayashi was the last to present. Lane's focus is on electoral empowerment and he found that there are three basic ways that people of Japanese descent had achieved political office in the Americas.
One was election via a strong demographic base of 20 percent or more of the population. Another appears when there are many Nikkei, but their relative percentage is low. In this situation, empowerment is
characterized by the formation of multi-cultural coalitions. Finally, there are Nikkei who gain empowerment, but have little or nothing to do with their Nikkei compatriots. They are essentially independent and detached from the Nikkei community.