Embodying Belonging: Racializing Okinawan Diaspora in Bolivia and Japan

Posted in Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Live Events, Media Archive, Monographs on 2012-07-16 18:22Z by Steven

Embodying Belonging: Racializing Okinawan Diaspora in Bolivia and Japan

University Of Hawai‘i Press
May 2010
272 pages
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8248-3344-2

Taku Suzuki, Assistant Professor of International Studies
Denison University, Granville, Ohio

Embodying Belonging is the first full-length study of a Okinawan diasporic community in South America and Japan. Under extraordinary conditions throughout the twentieth century (Imperial Japanese rule, the brutal Battle of Okinawa at the end of World War II, U.S. military occupation), Okinawans left their homeland and created various diasporic communities around the world. Colonia Okinawa, a farming settlement in the tropical plains of eastern Bolivia, is one such community that was established in the 1950s under the guidance of the U.S. military administration. Although they have flourished as farm owners in Bolivia, thanks to generous support from the Japanese government since Okinawa’s reversion to Japan in 1972, hundreds of Bolivian-born ethnic Okinawans have left the Colonia in the last two decades and moved to Japanese cities, such as Yokohama, to become manual laborers in construction and manufacturing industries.

Based on the author’s multisited field research on the work, education, and community lives of Okinawans in the Colonia and Yokohama, this ethnography challenges the unidirectional model of assimilation and acculturation commonly found in immigration studies. In its vivid depiction of the transnational experiences of Okinawan-Bolivians, it argues that transnational Okinawan-Bolivians underwent the various racialization processes—in which they were portrayed by non-Okinawan Bolivians living in the Colonia and native-born Japanese mainlanders in Yokohama and self-represented by Okinawan-Bolivians themselves—as the physical embodiment of a generalized and naturalized “culture” of Japan, Okinawa, or Bolivia. Racializing narratives and performances ideologically serve as both a cause and result of Okinawan-Bolivians’ social and economic status as successful large-scale farm owners in rural Bolivia and struggling manual laborers in urban Japan.
As the most comprehensive work available on Okinawan immigrants in Latin America and ethnic Okinawan “return” migrants in Japan, Embodying Belongingis at once a critical examination of the contradictory class and cultural identity (trans)formations of transmigrants; a rich qualitative study of colonial and postcolonial subjects in diaspora, and a bold attempt to theorize racialization as a social process of belonging within local and global schemes.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Racializing Culture and Class in a Transnational Field
  • 1. Modern Okinawan Transnationality: Colonialism, Diaspora, and “Return”
  • 2. The Making of Patrones Japonesas and Dekasegi Migrants
  • 3. From Patrón to Nikkei-jin Rodosha: Class Transformations
  • 4. Educating “Good” Nikkei and Okinawan Subjects
  • 5. Gendering Transnationality: Marriage, Family, and Dekasegi
  • Conclusion: Embodiment of Local Belonging
  • Notes
  • Glossary
  • References
  • Index
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Olympic Swimmer Neal Built Her Dream in Brooklyn

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2012-07-16 14:47Z by Steven

Olympic Swimmer Neal Built Her Dream in Brooklyn

The New York Times

William C. Rhoden, Sports Columnist

Lia Neal (Al Bello/Getty Images) Rome and Siu Neal with their grandson Rome Jin, their son Rome Kyn and his wife Ziggy (Victor J. Blue for The New York Times)

Rome Neal walked up to the microphone last week at the Paris Blues in Harlem and was just about to sing “I Worry About You” when he decided to share some great news with his audience. In his 12 years of performing a one-man show about Thelonious Monk, Neal had come to appreciate the importance of exquisite timing.

“My daughter’s name is Lia Neal and she just made it to become an Olympic swimmer, and she’ll be swimming in the Olympics in 2012 in London, England, the 4×100 relay,” Neal said.

The audience applauded and cheered enthusiastically. “Lia is 17 years old,” he said, “the second African-American female swimmer to make it to the Olympics.”

More applause, and for a story Rome Neal could finally tell.

Lia Neal qualified for the Olympics earlier this month by finishing fourth in the 100-meter freestyle, putting her on the relay team. In the weeks and months leading to the Olympic swimming trials, her mother, Siu Neal, had admonished her husband of 38 years not to put the cart before the horse, to rein in his flair for the dramatic and generally be cool.

Now Rome was free to spread the word and the joy: his baby girl was an Olympian…

…But the commitment is not just by the athlete.

“Any parent would do what I do,” Siu Neal said. “They all spend lots of time with their kids, take them to swimming practice, bringing them to competitions and meets. I don’t consider it giving up anything. I enjoy watching her swim; I even loved to watch her practice.”

Siu and Rome Neal are each 59, and their relationship reflects a deep-seated belief in possibility. They were brought together by poignant variations of the American dream. Their journeys to New York — and each other — underline the complexities and contradictions of a nation conceived in liberty. Their daughter symbolizes the powerful, positive force of that union.

When he was a year old, in 1953, Rome (his given name, Jerome, was shortened by his mother) moved to New York City from Sumter, S.C., as his family sought relief from the suffocating racial oppression in the South.

Siu and her family immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong when she was 18 to join her grandfather. “We were looking for a better life,” she said.

Rome’s family settled in Harlem before moving to Brooklyn. Siu’s family initially moved to the Bronx before also heading to Brooklyn. They met at New York City Community College, married and had three sons: Rome Kyn, Smile and Treasure.

On Feb. 13, 1995, the Neals had the daughter they had long hoped for. Rome wanted to name her Kujichagulia in honor of the second principle of Kwanzaa, self-determination. He was voted down. They settled on Lia. She speaks fluent Cantonese and Mandarin…

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Black-Yellow Fences: Multicultural Boundaries and Whiteness in the Rush Hour Franchise

Posted in Articles, Communications/Media Studies, Media Archive, United States on 2012-07-16 00:04Z by Steven

Black-Yellow Fences: Multicultural Boundaries and Whiteness in the Rush Hour Franchise

Critical Studies in Media Communication
Published Online: 2012-07-06
DOI: 10.1080/15295036.2012.697634

David C. Oh, Visiting Professor of Communications
Villanova University

The Rush Hour films disrupt the interracial buddy cop formula largely by erasing whites from the films. Despite the unconventional casting, the franchise has achieved “mainstream” popularity, which I argue is at least partly because the films construct Carter and Lee in an oppositional binary as a multiracial “odd couple,” converting Carter and Lee, the two lead detectives played by Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan, into physical embodiments of blackness and yellowness, fencing in the perimeters of whiteness. Thus, whiteness is able to remain protected and undetected in the normative center. Like a physical fence, however, the boundaries are semi-permeable, creating narrative openings to challenge whiteness. Therefore, the Rush Hour franchise protects white normality but leaves it somewhat vulnerable at the margins.

Nearly 15 years have passed since the release of the film Rush Hour, and, to date, there have been no major Hollywood blockbusters outside the franchise with African American and Asian American leads in a buddy film or in any other genre. This is despite the fact that Rush Hour was an enormous box office success the film series has been one of the most successful franchises in the action-buddy cop genre (Box office mojo, n.d.). Although the box office is only one key indicator of impact, it is, nevertheless, noteworthy because the films financial success points at least in part to its broad cultural appeal. But, why is the film appealing? Is it that the racially progressive casting is indicative of racial progressiveness? If so, what makes its replicability so elusive in a media system that historically gobbles up commodifiable bodies? I argue that the film’s appeal may have something to do with its semblance of progressive casting that referentially constructs whiteness between the binary poles of blackness and yellowness. Through the metaphor of racial fences, I will point to the…

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