Project Description


Institutional Participants


Focus Group#1
Focus Group#2
Focus Group#3
Focus Group#4
Summary Report

Staff and Advisors

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National Museum




Transnationalism and globalism refer to the internationalization of relationships between nation states from bilateral contacts between national entities to the relationship between nations set within an emergent supra-national system, and the relationship of these factors to the emergent Nikkei communities.

Primary language spoken: Japanese
Facilitator: Eiichiro Azuma, Researcher, INRP
Discussants: Makoto Arakaki (Thursday, June 24)
Harumi Befu (Friday, June 25)
Recorder: Mariko Nagoshi (Volunteer)

Research Participants: Makoto Arakaki, Harumi Befu, Masato Ninomiya, Edson Mori, Koichi Mori, Yasuko Takezawa, Taeko Akagi

Facilitator ‘s Report by Eiichiro Azuma

The earlier session of the group, entitled “Transnationalism, Globalism & the Nikkei,” devoted itself to deepening the understanding of each other’s work and exchanging the views on theoretical issues concerning “transnationalism.” Research Participants delineated in their own words the content of their study, and how each would look at the above issues.

Professor Harumi Befu traces a historical process of what he termed “human dispersal” from Japan to the overseas since the sixteenth century. Divided into three stages, his research has shown a diversity of experiences and processes, which would require a larger perspective and treatment of the Nikkei beyond the Western Hemisphere. Two Brazilian scholars, Professors Masato Ninomiya and Edson Mori, as well as Dr. Yasuko Takezawa, deal with the transnational “dekasegui” of Latin American Nikkei, albeit from different standpoints.

Professor Ninomiya examines a complex problem of Nikkei adaptation to Japanese society and re-adaptation in Brazilian society, while Dr. Mori focuses on the economic aspect of “dekasegui” phenomenon that has given a great impact on both Japan and Brazil. Dr. Takezawa concentrates on the emergence of a culturally-”hybrid” community in Kobe after the 1995 earthquake, or a state of “multicultural co-existence” that began to embrace marginalized groups of peoples, including Nikkei residents, as full-fledged members in the city. Taking up the subjects of identity formation of Okinawan residents in Brazil and Hawai`i, Professor Koichi Mori and Mr. Makoto Arakaki stress how local and international influences had simultaneous effects on their ever-changing subjectivity and unique ethnic identities in the socio-historical context of Okinawan “Diaspora” after the colonization of the Islands by the modern Japanese nation-state in the nineteenth century.

Much of the ensuing dialogue revolved around a collaborative effort to sharpen the theoretical definitions of “transnationalism” and “globalism” in relation to Nikkei experiences and identity formation. Some of the insights drawn from our scholars’ studies, suggest that rapid globalization of world economy, transportation, and commercialized culture would not necessarily turn human experiences and perspective into uniformity or homogeneity, for strong localized forces--specific social relations, community contexts, or political powers--also take part in the molding of human subjectivity. Thus Nikkei identity shall not be seen as something static, exclusive, and monolithic, as it is always fluid, non-essential, and hybrid. In the context of “transnationalism,” what makes an individual a Nikkei is not contingent simply upon his/her primordial “national” origin; rather it is built upon certain symbolic cultures or invented historical commonality. In this process of identity formation, notions of “race,” “blood,” and most importantly “nation-state” should be viewed as anything but essential.