Staff and Advisors
Facilitators Report by Richard Kosaki, Senior Adviser
The main mission of this three-year research project is "to increase and share the knowledge of Nikkei cultures and societies in order to foster greater linkages and cross-cultural understanding among nations with a Nikkei population."
I believe that significant strides were made in achieving this mission at the June 24-26, 1999, meeting at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles as the research participants from the various countries were able to share and mutually critique their current findings on the Nikkei experiences in their respective countries. Highly beneficial to the continuing success of this project was the sense of "bonding" that seemed to have occurred among the researchers which should facilitate "transnational collaborations and meaningful connections." While it was noted that each report had a more-or-less specialized emphasis (be it economic, political, gender, etc.), the need to somehow relate each to a basic conceptual framework was recognized.
There is no doubt that basic data gathering, providing an endogenous Nikkei perspective in each unique setting, is our immediate task. But there is the realization that these data can be made all the more meaningful as commonalties and differences can be explored against a common framework. Such an exploration will not only shed further understanding of each Nikkei community's past and present experiences but may also help to shape more positive Nikkei experiences in the future.
Information and concepts derived from this project can also contribute to a better global understanding of migrations and diaspora, as we are aware that there are numerous other studies of the many immigrant groups which are dispersed throughout the world. (Some academics are interested in a "comparative history of diasporas" while acknowledging that the term "diaspora" is not found in some cultures.)
More can be said about the larger world and theoretical framework to which this project can contribute, but our immediate task is to provide a reliable knowledge base of the Nikkei experiences in North and South America. At the June 1999 meeting, it became much more obvious (especially to us, ethnocentric "Americans") that there are some significant differences in the Nikkei experiences. And the assumed commonalties have to be critically examined.
The success of the June 1999 meeting should be measured not only in terms of how it has contributed to increasing the shared knowledge of the varied Nikkei experiences but also in terms of the many questions that it has brought into focus. Any successful research enterprise brings to the fore and into sharper focus meaningful questions, many of them not susceptible to easy answers. The INRP should be thought of as a part, albeit a somewhat crucial and pioneering part, of an ongoing research project which not only informs one of the Nikkei experiences but which may also contribute to the basic knowledge of immigrant experiences globally. It is hoped that individual researchers will be inspired to delve more intensively into areas of special interests which have been sparked by participation in the INRP. Along with the development of the Nikkei Research Repository, the Resource Guide and related resource materials, the INRP will establish a firm foundation for future research on the world-wide Nikkei experiences.